Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2016/Spring/Section 023/Eliza Grant

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<Eliza Grant >
BornEliza Grant
1880
Raleigh, North Carolina
Diedunknown
NationalityAfrican American
OccupationMaid, Cook, Midwife
Known forFederal Writers Project


Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Eliza Grant was born in 1880 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her parents were Curtis (first name unknown) and Tempie Curtis. Tempie was a midwife and Curtis drove a hack, or taxi. Tempie, was the daughter of Cook (first name unknown) and Liza Cook, who used to be slaves. After they were freed, they went to the Oberlin Section, a parcel of land sold to former slaves after the Civil War, to clean and cook for white people. [1] Tempie was one out of eleven children; one of her brothers, Edga was taken by the Yankees for twelve years. The circumstances behind this remain unclear. [2]

Personal Life[edit]

Grant married Andrew Grant, who died shortly after they had their three children: Thelma, Don, and Chester. Don died in 1931 at the age of thirty-two. He had a wife and ten-year old son named Grant. Thelma was married to William, a chauffeur, or a personal driver, for Thompson (first name unknown). Thelma had poor health with high blood pressure, a possible cause from being overweight . Thelma and William had a son Grant's age. Chester was thirty and lived with Eliza. Eliza worked by cooking, cleaning, and midwifing to support her family and herself after her husband, a porter at the school board, died. Her parents helped by caring for her children. [3]

Grant disliked doctors and their newer methods; she believed her midwife practices were good enough. Many wealthier women went to hospitals to deliver babies; Eliza viewed those women as lazy. She did not have the money to spend on hospitals, so she never went to hospitals. She bore her three children at home with a midwife. However, she did try to prevent the third pregnancy. She tried a form of birth control (unclear which one), but it did not work because she was not informed enough about how birth control worked. Eliza was like many African American, lower class women; they had low knowledge about birth control and limited desire for doctors and nurses. [4]

Social Issues[edit]

Midwives conflict with Doctors and Nurses[edit]

There was some tension between doctors and midwives during this time. A midwife delivered babies in place of a doctor, common in the 19th century and before. Many midwives did not trust doctors and believed they were unnecessary for delivering babies. They felt that paying for hospitals and waiting on nurses was a waste of money. However, many doctors viewed midwives as inferior to their methods for delivering babies. Competition between both doctors and midwives increased. According to Judith, “By the beginning of the 20th century, midwives attended only about half of all births in the U.S., and physicians attended the other half.” [5]

Nurses replaced midwifes slowly, even though midwife training was later attempted to be incorporated with nursing. When training nurses to act as midwifes, many did not realize the different ideologies, so combining nursing and midwifery was difficult. According to Varney and Thompson, “What was missing in the argument on qualifications was the difference between the medical approach and the physiological approach to normal childbearing and the additional educational preparation needed by physicians.” [6] Midwives used a natural method for childbearing. They did not use a lot of medication like doctors and nurses did. Midwives lacked formal training, so they relied on experience passed down from previous midwives. Another term for midwives was grannies. Varney, Helen, and Joyce wrote that “Meanwhile, traditional African American midwives known as “grannies,” the descendants of slaves, were delivering approximately 90% of Black women in the South. Because of racial prejudice, many of them were impoverished and lacked basic formal education.” [7] Nurses slowly started to decrease the number of grannies, even though grannies were used commonly among a large part of the population.

The midwifery and doctor conflict showed the racial and class segregation common during the early 1900s, mainly in the South. Many still preferred the midwife approach over the medical approach. Most African Americans, especially in the South, preferred midwives because they were more affordable, while many of the upper-class women chose hospitals. New medical advancements were used by doctors, while midwives continued using the same methods. The poor or middle class were less likely to trust the newer medications than wealthier women. Wealthier women trusted doctors and nurses more because they had the money to do so. “Upper-class women initially welcomed it as a symbol of medical progress, although its negative effects were later publicized.” [8] Many families listened to midwives before because that was all they had; they could not afford to get professional care. Jones and Baer described them as: “Not only did Helen not comply with the advice of the public health nurse about her first child…She delivered the first child at home with a midwife…her family did not have enough money to pay a doctor or a hospital.” [9]




Contraceptives[edit]

Another issue arising during this time period was the use of contraceptives. Contraceptives are devices or methods used to prevent pregnancy. Medical birth control was starting to gain popularity and was available to many women. During the early 20th century, methods such as the ringring, withdrawal, diaphragms, and the rhythm method became more prevalent. According to DeNoon, "before the Industrial Revolution, birth control devices in America relied largely on condoms for men -- fashioned from linen or from animal intestines -- and on douches made for and by women from common household ingredients." [10]

There were also laws enacted that made birth control more accessible. In the 1965 Supreme Court Griswold vs Connecticut case, states were not allowed to deny married couples birth control. [11] The Supreme Court ruled that Connecticut's law punishing those who used birth control impacted a married couple's right to privacy. [12] This right was extended to non-married couples in 1972 with the Eisenstadt v. Baird Supreme Court case. The same right to contraceptives was given to single people after a past full of federal punishments to unmarried people found using birth control, including Baird who fought for this right. [13] In 1977, Supreme Court case Carey v. Population Services International allowed birth control suppliers to sell birth control to teenagers. [14] Formerly, manufacturers could not sell birth control to individuals under sixteen, physicians only could give people birth control, and companies could not advertise birth control. The Supreme Court found this law a violation of freedom of speech and the former cases Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird. [15]

Margaret Sanger played a major role in the birth control movement of the 1900s. She spent many years calling for easier acquirement of birth control and laws giving contraceptive rights. In 1912, she began writing news paper columns. She headed the first birth control clinic in 1916. The American Birth Control League, later known as The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, was also founded by Sanger in 1921. Planned Parenthood Federation of America promotes reproductive health care by informing the public and researching new methods of birth control. [16] She helped fund Gregory Pincus to develop the birth control pill in 1960. [17]

Cultural Inequality[edit]

Racial inequality[edit]

Most of the white population in the South emphasized on racial purity and white supremacy, so the goal was to reduce the number of black babies compared to white babies. At the time, there was a higher number of black infants than white infants, many coming from unplanned pregnancies. Racism and sexism are major factors in the lack of contraceptive use. In a world without racism and sexism, according to Baer and Jones, “Without racism and sexism, African American teenage girls…utilize effective contraceptives with selected males and seek economic and social success…” [18] Racial and gender equality in the 1900s influenced the number of pregnancies occurring, especially amongst the African American population.

North vs South[edit]

Many of those raised in the South were not fully educated regarding birth control, which reduced the usage of birth control compared to women in the North. Another reason the South used birth control less was the religious view in the South was mainly Protestant, which included "evangelicalism, fundamentalism, pentecostalism" as Wilson wrote. [19] Protestants were against birth control use until the early 1900s. The Protestant churches allowed contraceptive use by the 1960s. This primary Protestant belief in the South slowed the spread of birth control compared to the North. [20] Goldstein, Cynthia. "THE PRESS AND THE BEGINNING OF THE BIRTH CONTROL MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES (LAW, HISTORY)." ProQuest, 1985. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://search.proquest.com/docview/303383809/abstract/FE6F45C39DE44D6FPQ/1?accountid=14244.</ref> than the North.

Sexual inequality[edit]

Gender inequality was more common in the South, more in the African American community than the white community. Many younger females in the African American community felt the pressure to be cared for and ended up pregnant in this search. [21] According to Women of the 1920s, "During this time, when inequality was a big issue for women, they were not in control of their own bodies. They could not decide what they wanted when it came to pregnancy and were more so forced to have children rather than wanting to have children which caused much pain, suffering, and deaths.” [22] Contraceptives was a solution that was restricted to many people; it was a male controlled issue.

  1. Guest, Judith. "Oberlin Village." North Carolina History Project. Accessed March 9, 2016. http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/commentary/228/entry.
  2. Eliza Grant, Midwife, in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  3. Eliza Grant, Midwife, in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  4. Eliza Grant, Midwife, in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  5. Rooks, Judith P. "The History of Midwifery." Ourbodiesourselves.org. May 22, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/health-info/history-of-midwifery/.
  6. Varney, Helen, and Joyce Beebe Thompson. A History of Midwifery in the United States : The Midwife Said Fear Not. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2016. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=aeab46ba-f6e9-4b27-9f54-525b51f7425e@sessionmgr4005&vid=0&hid=4114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==#AN=1102349&db=nlebk.
  7. Varney, Helen, and Joyce Beebe Thompson. A History of Midwifery in the United States : The Midwife Said Fear Not. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2016. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=aeab46ba-f6e9-4b27-9f54-525b51f7425e@sessionmgr4005&vid=0&hid=4114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==#AN=1102349&db=nlebk.
  8. Rooks, Judith P. "The History of Midwifery." Ourbodiesourselves.org. May 22, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/health-info/history-of-midwifery/.
  9. Baer, Hans A., and Yvonne Jones, eds. African Americans in the South. Athens: Southern Anthropological Society, 1992.
  10. DeNoon, Daniel. "A History of Birth Control." MedicineNet.com. August 6, 2001. Accessed March 9, 2016. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=51170.
  11. "Birth Control: Background and History." Family.findlaw.com. Accessed March 17, 2016. http://family.findlaw.com/reproductive-rights/birth-control-background-and-history.html.
  12. McBride, Alex. "Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)." PBS.org. Accessed March 21, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_griswold.html.
  13. Dunlap, Bridgette. "Eisenstadt v. Baird: The 41st Anniversary of Legal Contraception for Single People." Rewire, March 22, 2013. Accessed March 21, 2016. https://rewire.news/article/2013/03/22/today-marks-the-41st-anniversary-of-legal-contraception-for-single-people/.
  14. "Reproductive Rights: U.S. Supreme Court Cases." Family.findlaw.com. Accessed March 17, 2016. http://family.findlaw.com/reproductive-rights/reproductive-rights-u-s-supreme-court-cases.html.
  15. Tokarev, Sergey. "Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678 (1977)." Uscivilliberties.org. January 16, 2012. Accessed March 21, 2016. http://uscivilliberties.org/cases/3306-carey-v-population-services-international-431-us-678-1977.html.
  16. "Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA)." Philanthropedia. Accessed March 21, 2016. http://www.myphilanthropedia.org/top-nonprofits/national/reproductive-health-rights-justice/2010/planned-parenthood-federation-of-america-ppfa.
  17. "Margaret Sanger." National Women's History Museum. Accessed March 17, 2016. https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/margaret-sanger/.
  18. Baer, Hans A., and Yvonne Jones, eds. African Americans in the South. Athens: Southern Anthropological Society, 1992.
  19. Wilson, Charles R. "Religion and the US South." Southern Spaces. March 16, 2004. Accessed March 18, 2016. http://southernspaces.org/2004/overview-religion-and-us-south.
  20. Carlson, Allan. "History of Contraception in the Protestant Church." Bound4life.com. Accessed March 19, 2016. http://bound4life.com/history-of-contraception-in-the-protestant-church/.
  21. Baer, Hans A., and Yvonne Jones, eds. African Americans in the South. Athens: Southern Anthropological Society, 1992.
  22. "Birth Control in the 1920s." Womenofthe1920s.tripod.com. June 13, 2011. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://womenofthe1920s.tripod.com/birth-control-in-the-1920s.html.