In 1967, at the request of the American Nurses Association, Sr. Mary Stella Simpson moved to Mound Bayou, an African-American community in Mississippi. As a nurse-midwife, her ministry was providing care and education to young mothers. Her work was part of a comprehensive health center which served a 500 square-mile area. While in Mound Bayou, she wrote letters to her community describing her experiences. These letters were collected and published as a book titled Sister Stella’s Babies. The stories below come from that book.
I went to visit an expectant mother who lives in Duncan today … she is the mother of 12, all at home. They live in three small rooms. The children were all in school except the baby – a two-year-old. The house was cold. One gas heater in the middle room made very little heat. I was cold as I talked to the mother, and I had on boots and my all weather coat … The baby was whining, trying to cry. I picked her up and it was like holding a frozen fish. The poor little darling had on a dress – period. So I had to go get something to keep her warm. How can a country as rich as ours have so much poverty? I keep asking myself that question day after day. I could see daylight in places right through the roof and could see anything I chose through the holes in the walls.
Thursday, April 4: I saw an 11-month-old baby who was almost dead from starvation at the clinic yesterday. I have seen pictures of these little starved ones from India and Viet Name but the actual face-to-face encounter is really an experience.
Sunday, October 5: Tonight it is pouring rain, and the lightning is quite lively … There are a few home visits to make tomorrow, so I’ll have to get out my boots, raincoat and other mud gear again. Good old Mississippi! Rain and all, I love her magnolias and her poor.