Midwife assisted in delivery of many Gothenburg residents
Lois Atkinson has nothing but nice things to say about a local midwife who helped deliver two of her seven children.
“She was like a mother to us all,” said 96-year-old Atkinson about Edith Booth. “She was soothing.”According to articles in The Times centennial issue and the Gothenburg Area History book, Edith Booth helped deliver and care for about 200 babies.
Two hospitals—one above a pharmacy and the other on the southwest corner of 14th Street and Lake Avenue—were in operation when Booth moved to town from Pine Bluffs, WY, in 1921 but she only provided part-time maternity care as she cared for six of her own children.
However at the urging of the doctors in town, Booth became licensed and established a maternity care facility in her home at 1703 Ave. B in 1942.
“It wasn’t a very big house,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson remembers the facility where she delivered the first boy and stayed in the home for a few days.
She also recalls the home diagonally across the street, at 1620 Ave. B, where the family moved five years later after it was built by Charles Booth, Edith’s husband, who was a carpenter.
“Her husband was also a good hand with the kids,” Atkinson said.
The new home was where Atkinson’s second son was born. News accounts say that Chauncey Bates of Gothenburg was the first baby delivered at the new address.
“She sure did take care of me,” Atkinson said. “She was a good hand to have.”
Evalyn Koester, one of Booth’s daughters who is now deceased, said in a story that her mother had no formal training as a nurse.
“She just began by helping neighbors and friends and pretty soon word got around that she was available and people would call her to come in to their homes and care for them and their babies after delivery,” Koester said, noting that her mother often cared for other children and washed and cooked for the rest of the family.
She charged $20 for staying 10 days with a family.
When she was gone, Koester said her father cared for the Booth children.
Once she started her own facility, Koester said Booth charged up to $50 for 10 days.
Koester said babies were delivered in a double-sized bed that was beautifully hand carved with pineapple-topped posts.
Atkinson said newborn babies were washed and dressed on the dining room table and then placed in bassinettes alongside their mothers.
One particular incident that Koester remembers is when Dr. Stevenson delivered a baby boy and then packed up and left. Booth noticed another baby inside the mother.
“I ran outside and yelled ‘Stevie,’ there’s another baby coming,” she said.
Koester said she remembers sewing diapers from unbleached outing flannel for the extra Ostergard twin.
Jane (Brooks) Sheets and her sister, Judi, were also twins born in the Booth’s maternity facility.
Booth assisted Dr. Harvey during the delivery, Jane said.
Atkinson remembers Booth as “quite a lady.”
In fact, Booth took care of one of Atkinson’s sons when Atkinson traveled to a southern state when Charles, a pilot in World War II, was injured stateside.
“Everyone loved her,” she said. “And I was glad to have my children with her.”
Koester said only three infants died in the years her mother provided maternity care.
When one died at birth, she said the undertaker brought the casket to the house and the service was in the living room. The baby was then taken away for burial. Another also died at birth, Koester said, and a third baby died the second day after delivery.
Accounts say Booth continued to help deliver and care for babies and their mothers until she was nearly 70.
Whether or not Booth delivered babies on her own is not clear.
After a fall down porch steps left her right side partially paralyzed, Koester said her mother continued to care for older children because she loved them.