Book review: 'Zion's Hope' honors early Utah midwives and female doctors

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, March 3 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

"ZION'S HOPE: Pioneer Midwives and Women Doctors in Utah," by Honey M. Newton, Cedar Fort, $10.99, 120 pages (nf)

Honey Newton's "Zion’s Hope: Pioneer Midwives and Women Doctors in Utah" honors the lives of 28 women who delivered thousands of babies and healed the sick among the Mormon pioneer and other settles in Utah in the mid-1800s

Romania Pratt, Patty Bartlett Sessions, Ellen B. Ferguson, Ellis Reynolds Shipp and Zina Diantha Huntington Young are among the well-known pioneer midwives and doctors featured in the book.

In one to four pages, a brief sketch of each woman’s life is presented. Their early backgrounds, training and contributions to the field of midwifery and medicine are summarized. With few exceptions, most of the women featured are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Chapter headings include the woman’s name, her birth and death dates, and a brief statement that gives a glimpse into the woman’s character.

For example, the chapter on Sarah Zuviah Southworth Burbank begins with this quote from her: “I came to this earth to attend the sick. I have prayed for my parents who were very sick and they have recovered. When I have been in confinement cases the Lord has blessed me in delivering women when they were in a very serious condition.”

Annie Bryceon Laker's tombstone epitaph is another example: “My one desire is that I shall never do anything to cause another pain.”

A black-and-white photo of each woman is included, if one was available.

Although each woman is unique, some common threads run through the sketches: hard work, sacrifice, selfless service and joy and satisfaction in the work of midwifery and healing. They are inspiring examples of womanhood, faith and devotion.

Newton notes that she has tried to include autobiographical sources. “When this is not possible,” she writes in the introduction, “these stories are taken from accounts of descendants, recorded interviews, collections in the Utah Historical Quarterly, archived histories in the possession of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and journals.”

Other notable female health care providers of the time period are listed in an appendix.

Endnotes are included with each chapter as well as an eight-page list of references.

Newton is a native of Colorado and has a master’s in nurse midwifery from the University of Utah. She and her husband, Sam, have seven children.

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at dramaticdimensions.com.

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