Aunt Cordi

This tape features an interview with an elderly African-American woman referred to as Aunt Cordi. Cordi talks about her experience working as a midwife in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

00:00Copy video clip URL This tape begins with a blue screen and static.

00:39Copy video clip URL Aunt Cordi describes her large family. She states that she had fifteen full siblings and twenty-four half siblings. “My daddy was the father of twenty-four children, my father was… He’s a pretty good old man!” One of her father’s children is sitting next to Cordi. She then goes on to talk about her days as a little girl chopping cotton. Cordi also talks about the food people ate when she was a young child. She states that people were eating the same food but that families were raising their own rations.

03:16Copy video clip URL Cordi begins to talk about her work as a midwife. The videomaker asks what kinds of food she would tell the mothers to eat after their pregnancies. Cordi states that they could eat as they normally do. She then goes on to talk about how she disposed of the afterbirth. She states that she would either bury or burn it.

05:24Copy video clip URL When asked if she remembers when the health department began to train midwives, Cordi briefly talks about attending meetings only once a year. She eventually recalls an instance in which she delivered a baby in Pittsburgh. This lasts for several minutes.

11:05Copy video clip URL When asked if she had ever had any dealings with a root or herb doctor, Cordi says she hadn’t and goes on to talk about the fact that there were no midwives around her area and part of the country.

12:54Copy video clip URL Cordi talks about the payments, or lack thereof, that she received for her services. She states that she wouldn’t get anything some of the time, maybe only a dollar or two a week. Cordi was supposed to charge five dollars a birth. “Folks didn’t have it. You might charge them that, but you wouldn’t get nothing.” She then states that she really didn’t care about the pay because she wasn’t going to let the mothers suffer. “I wasn’t too sorry to go and help her. I’d help her if I didn’t ever get any pay. If it was your wife I’d help her if you didn’t ever give me a cent. That’s my principle.” Cordi also takes the time to count her blessings despite the fact that she wasn’t paid very much for her work. She reminisces about her work and an instance in which she hadn’t eaten anything for two days but still delivered a baby.

18:21Copy video clip URL Cordi talks about some of the different cloths and makeshift fabrics she used to wrap the newborns in poor households. She goes on to highlight a technique of ridding a woman of her afterbirth. She goes on to talk about where she would normally deliver babies. Cordi states that she preferred delivering babies on a bed, but would not always get to do so. Cordi states that she would do the best she could in any situation.

23:12Copy video clip URL One of the videomakers asks Cordi to talk about some of the songs she sang as a midwife. She first states that she didn’t have any, but she and the various other family members in the room with her end up singing for the camera.

26:56Copy video clip URL Cordi talks about her work in the cotton fields and the payments she received for her work. She states that the men working on the fields would receive fifty cents in comparison to her thirty cents for the same work. She eventually begins to talk about the lack of payments she received for her work as a midwife. She also emphasizes the fact that she would never turn anyone down no matter what. One of Cordi’s family members shares a story with Cordi and the videomakers. This lasts for several minutes.

30:35Copy video clip URL Cordi talks about going to school until the age of thirteen when her mother passed away. “And didn’t I tell you my mother died and I had to be a mother.” Cordi then emphasizes her pride in knowing how to read and write. She reminisces about her days in school. The tape ends shortly afterward.

33:07Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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