Onnie Lee Logan was a well-respected midwife of Alabama who became a folk hero when her life story was published.
Logan was born around 1910. Growing up in rural Alabama, she always knew she would follow in her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps of becoming a midwife. For over 50 years, Lee delivered hundreds of babies in south Alabama. From 1931 to 1984, she delivered almost every child born in Prichard, Alabama and in all the predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama.
During the Great Depression, Logan, along with other midwives, played a major role in delivering children to mostly poor white and black mothers. She provided help when doctors were either not available or unwilling to provide the necessary services. She delivered babies regardless of race or the parent’s ability to pay for her services. Although she delivered hundreds of babies in her lifetime, in order to support her family she took on a second job as a domestic servant for a town physician.
Up until 1949, the midwife profession was not regulated in Alabama and a person did not need any formal training, a license, or permit to practice. Because of Logan’s expertise in the field and with almost 20 years of experience, she received her permit to practice midwifery faster than any other applicant. In her autobiography Motherwit: An Alabama Midwife’s Story, she attributes “motherwit”, an inborn knowledge that comes from God, as the reason for her success and why earning her license was so easy, “There was a high power and God give me wisdom. Motherwit, common sense. Wisdom comes from on high. You got it and you can’t explain how you got it yourself. It’s motherwit.” “I do whatever is suitable for that minute or that hour or that situation… Whether I’ve seen it in a book or read it or not, I do it. And it works. In 1976, lay midwives were outlawed by the state of Alabama. Onnie Lee Logan died in 1995.