The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Lena Barber

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Lena Barber until we are able to commission a full entry.

Lena Barber, photo courtesy of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

One of the few midwives to continue working in Baltimore after the 1924 ordinance that required they be licensed and registered, Lena Barber kept detailed records of hundreds of her deliveries. Barber arrived in the US in 1883 as a widow with two children, later remarrying and having a third child. As she had no means of transportation, she walked to her patients’ houses, sometimes all the way from her home in South Baltimore to East Baltimore. Unable to write in English, she used her daughter and granddaughter as assistants and record keepers, and they noted her work in at least seventeen notebooks spanning 1892–1928. Her granddaughter remembers her working with her hands, never tools, and wearing an old-fashioned white apron while she worked. While she delivered most babies herself, Barber didn’t hesitate to call in a medical doctor if complications arose during a birth. Her records showed the birthdate, sex, number of older siblings, parents’ origins, and father’s occupation for each child she delivered, creating a detailed picture of the immigrant community in Baltimore at the turn of the century.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Lena Barber." (Viewed on September 24, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/barber-lena>.

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