And Shirley Ferguson of Talladega County learned of it years ago, and has now decided it’s time to share it with others.
The freelance writer tells the story of Hannah D. Mitchell, who became a nurse midwife specialist and was convinced to tell the story to Ferguson personally.
Ferguson met Mitchell while she and her husband, Mack, were living in Atlanta in the early 1970s.
Ferguson attended a home Bible study taught by Mitchell and Mitchell’s incentive to her group was to provide a brand new Bible each time a member of the group read the complete Bible.
After receiving more than her share of new Bibles, Ferguson asked her teacher for a different award-her very own life story.
“And surprisingly, she agreed,” Ferguson tells.
The two collaborated on telling Mitchell’s story, and now, the story is available in book form, titled “Birth Cry, a Personal Story of the Life of Hannah D. Mitchell, Nurse Midwife.”
“Birth Cry documents the journey of an obscure woman from a poor, hardworking Christian family in Missouri who achieves advanced education, acclaim and esteem in adulthood,” Ferguson said.
Mitchell found a way to attend John Brown University on a work-study program, she happened to know the founder, John Brown.
While at the university, one of her classmates was Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
She also met who she thought was the love of her life, but later became heartbroken when the engagement was broken. She never married.
Mitchell then went on to graduate from St. Luke’s Nursing School in Missouri.
She then felt driven to move to Hayden, Ky. to provide healthcare for the many families of poverty there.
She also became the very first graduate of Frontier Nursing service, which remains the largest midwifery school in the United States.
For many years, Mitchell reached her patients on horseback, Ferguson tells.
“She grew to love the mountaineers and was reluctant to leave,” Ferguson tells.
Mitchell went on to a career with the Georgia Department of Public Health and while there, was technical advisor for the documentary, “All My Babies,” which won the Flaherty Citation, the equivalent of an Oscar award for its genre, Ferguson said.
The instructional film is still used today throughout the world to train midwives.
“Throughout her life, Hannah prayerfully deals with her life’s plans as they go astray,” Ferguson said. “The book is interspersed with journal entries as Hannah comes to realize that she has dementia, and what the clinical outcome of the disease will be.”
So, Ferguson poses, what will the final development be?
“Can her faith and courage survive?” Ferguson asks.
The story is told with insight and humor, and reveals how Mitchell’s life develops-through adversity-into a life surrendered to God.
“Birth Cry can be appreciated by women of all ages as they traverse each stage in life,” Ferguson said. “This biographical book is not only a memoir, it is a piece of preserved history, with the passing of a generation of self-sacrificing individuals.”
Ferguson met with the group of about 30 women with Mitchell for about 10 years.
“We called ourselves her ‘chicks,’” Ferguson said.
Mitchell died in 2000 at age 93.
Ferguson will speak about her book at several locations, at Talladega’s Armstrong-Osborne Library Dec. 15 at 11 a.m., and Dec. 16 at Little Professor Bookstore in Homewood from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. and also at The Book Nook in Sylacauga from noon until 2 p.m. Dec. 17.
She also appears with Elaine Liveoak Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. on channel 47 in Sylacauga and on The Larry Barton Show tonight (Dec. 11) at 7 p.m.
Ferguson grew up in a small community in north Birmingham where she attended Phillips High School. Where she met her high school sweetheart and they later married.
Upon returning from Atlanta to Alabama, the Fergusons eventually loved to the home they share and enjoy with their children and seven grandchildren on Logan Martin Lake.
She is an avid reader and enjoys working in her church library.
Contact Laura Nation-Atchison at firstname.lastname@example.org.