From 1943 to 1950, in the small hill towns of Iowa, childbirth involved very different rules than there are today. A mother and her son relied heavily on the local doctor and the city’s midwife to care for them through sometimes arduous work without the benefit of advanced medical equipment. There were no monitors or ultrasounds or epidurals. One such example was the kitchen part of the Bristow Hotel in Massena. When her husband died in 1942, Mable Bristow relied on her stellar work ethic while cooking family meals for just 50 cents. In addition, she cultivated a large garden, canned her own meats, baked bread on the old stove, and became a trusted assistant to Dr. Dirlam and Dr. Henkel when “the time came” for the birth of babies in the Massena area, including three. healthy twin sets. During those eight years, this team gave birth to 225 babies, never losing a mother or child. The average stay was seven days, at a cost of $ 5 to $ 6 a day. The kitchen was where the babies were distributed – at the kitchen table – giving the home its name, Bristow Birthing Kitchen. Think about it: Mrs. Bristow not only helped with the birth of the babies, but she also kept the rooms elegant, took care of both the babies and the needs of the mothers, and did the laundry in a copper cauldron. a wood stove in the basement. using homemade soap. She prepared meals in the same kitchen for both mothers and hotel guests. There was no time to be lazy at the Bristow Hotel Birthing Kitchen!
Rose Ellen Holste and Norma Elizabeth Schaaf came together to write The Birthing Kitchen, a delightful rendition of The Bristow Hotel’s memoirs, which includes personal accounts of mothers, including the names of fathers and sons, plus the date of birth and weight of each newborn. Each entry is written by Mabel Bristow.
The Cass County Historical Museum is pleased to have this book on display. It offers a variety of moving memories for visitors to browse and enjoy. Please go ahead and look for yourself.
This was of particular interest to this writer because I was born in the Leonard de Griswold nursing home in 1947. “So unusual, I remembered. Aren’t they nursing homes? ” Until I think of the dirt roads (mud) and the longer, more precipitous journeys to a larger hospital. Now I ask; Are there other cities in Cass County where local facilities were adapted for baby delivery? We’d love to hear from you and add this information to our “Birth Kitchen” screen. Call (712)778-5040 and leave a message.
The Cass County Historical Museum is located on Griswold Main Street. It is a free public museum and is open from May 4 to November 1. Hours are 1pm to 4pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Visits are available upon request by calling (712) 778-5040.