Midwife Doll

Who is She and Why is She in the Archives?

Most of the unusual or unexpected items we find in the Archives are usually some form of recorded information. Every once in a while, though, something – or someone – a bit different makes an appearance.

Take this distinctive woman, for example.

Midwife Doll

Who is she, and more importantly, why is she in the Archives?

One clue is the agency from which she originated – what archivists call provenance. This mystery woman is from the State Board of Health, located in a series of Midwife Program Files from 1924-1975 (series S904).

Make sense now? 

The State Board of Health initiated a midwife licensing program in 1931 to reduce infant mortality and to promote maternal and child health. So, yes, this was a maternity and childbirth teaching aid for midwives and expectant mothers.

In addition to this midwife teaching doll, the Midwife Program Files include correspondence, reports of legislation, essays on midwifery, midwife manuals and publications, photographs, and midwife licenses, record cards, and summaries. The midwife record cards provide yearly health checkup information, race, literacy and education level, and consulting physicians. The summaries list licensed midwives in each county for each year.

There are plenty of great resources for mid-20th century public health policy research among the records of the State Board of Health in the State Library and Archives. Among the many other record series from the Board are a substantial series of administrative files dating from 1889-1926 (series S46), Board minutes from 1889-1969 (series S272), subject files from 1875-1975 (series S900), and a series of photographs, photographic slides, lantern slides, negatives and sound recordings documenting the history and activities of the State Board of Health (series S907).