Mary Kassmeier: Midwife on the Upper Missouri

Dublin Core

Title

Mary Kassmeier: Midwife on the Upper Missouri

Subject

Mary Kassmeier worked as a professional midwife in and around Fort Benton, Montana, in the early 1900s.

Description

Midwives resided in multitudes of Montana communities, and while they may be absent from history books and museum exhibits, evidence of their work remains in historical society records and county courthouses, as well as the minds and memories of those they served. Mary Kassmeier (1881-1964) helped pregnant women in communities along the Upper Missouri, establishing a noteworthy practice by birthing infants on her own as well as assisting area physicians and delivering in the local hospital. Because she worked collaboratively with doctors, her name never appeared on birth certificates. She, like so many other historical midwives, would have disappeared into plain sight - except that she asked each family to send her a photograph of the new baby.

Kassmeier painstakingly collected more than one hundred of these labeled images in a photo album, a startling testament to a life dedicated to Montana women and children. Each of the album photographs has been digitally scanned and is included in this archive. The images document babies born from 1915 to 1925 and include formal photographs of infants in christening gowns to an intimate picture of a child on his father’s shoulders and a toddler with the family flock of chickens. The photographs speak to the ways Montana parents cherished their children, and the gratitude they felt for a safe delivery.

With the increased availability of the automobile and the looming international conflict of World War I, the early 1900s offered important changes for Montanans. Dramatic economic and social shifts brought a wave of new Montana residents, many of whom settled in the state without the extensive family and relational connections they usually depended on for help in childbirth. Midwives like Mary Kassmeier stepped into an evolving cultural milieu and went to work caring for families in times of stress, apprehension, and joy.

Source

Originals Held by the Overholser Research Center, Fort Benton, Montana.

Publisher

Women's Reproductive History Alliance http://womensreproductivehistoryalliance.org

Date

1915-1948

Rights

All images in copyright; educational use only permitted. No collection images may be reproduced, published, or used by a for-profit entity. When citing collection images, include the following language: Image No. (include WRHA identifier), digital image held by the Women's Reproductive History Alliance (WRHA), original photograph in the care of the Overholser Historical Research Center in Fort Benton, Montana.

Format

photographic still images - higher resolution files available upon request

Language

English

Identifier

WHRA year-series-item

Collection Items

Mary Overman - 4 years;  Clara Pearl Overman - 5 months
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

Franklin Dominic Stencil - 7 months
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

Ethel Maxine - 6 months - Sister
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

Serene Merrill - 6 months
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

Baby Buckland
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

David Wright Iverson - 8 months
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

Baby Thompson
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

Rose Mary Imbert
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

Cherry Adele Rowen
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…

Ralph Robert Kerl
Mary Kassmeier practiced midwifery in and around Fort Benton, Montana, from approximately 1915 through 1925. Whenever she helped at a delivery she requested a photograph from the family and this image is one of the many that she collected and…
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