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Lena Barber

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.

Lena Barber
Full image
Lena Barber, photo courtesy of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Lena Barber." (Viewed on February 23, 2019) <>.


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