If it was the village carpenter who took care of you after you had departed this life, it was the village midwife who would have helped you into the world, almost certainly relying on skills that had been passed down from one generation to the next, rather than on any formal training; and before 1905 the village midwife was Mrs. Bowen. However, in that year an announcement appeared in the parish magazine stating that she would give up acting as midwife at confinements on account of the Midwife's Act of 1902, which would come into effect in the coming April.
"I am sure", says the writer of this announcement, "that there must be many in the parish who are grateful to Mrs. Bowen for the kind and skilful help she has given at these times. Often she has been robbed of a night's rest, and often there have been times when those she aided have been unable to give her adequate remuneration".
The writer goes on to state that people would now have to make other arrangements at these times, but this would have been no easy matter, since the system of District Nurses employed by the Local Authority did not begin until 1936, and anyone who wanted the doctor had to walk or cycle into Diss to summon him, so it is probable that people did still have to rely on Mrs. Bowen's traditional skills, in spite of the law which said that only trained midwives could receive payment for this work.
©1984 members of Shelfanger WI