In the 1920s, my great-grandmother Gertruda (Wiens) Toews was a midwife who is still recognized at the hospital where she worked in Paraguay, South America. She was known to have delivered the healthiest babies while ensuring each mother’s safety as she always referenced a Canadian medical textbook that highly regarded cleanliness and sterilization. She boiled and ironed the aprons that she wore, boiled and disinfected scissors and other tools required during deliveries with rubbing alcohol, all while raising her own seven children.
“Midwife Gertruda Toews, born Wiens, born on January 30, 1882 in Canada, came with her husband Jacob F. Toews in the fourth emigration group to Paraguay. she was 45 years old at the time. The family first settled in Schontal, later in Osterwick, and at the age of retirement moved to Loma Plata. Seven children were born to Toews.
In many years of obstetric care, she has helped many babies into the world. She assisted the women giving birth in Canada and then in the Menno Colony. It is reported that she had a doctoral degree in which she read a lot and then put that knowledge into practice.
She is told that she was one of the few midwives who worked very cleanly. Before every examination and birth, she washed her hands very carefully with soap and water and disinfected them with alcohol. She had no gloves, because these were not yet available as a tool. In her work as a midwife, she always had a white apron, which she carefully washed, boiled and ironed. She also had other visitors with her, who always washed and worked carefully. Her instrumentation contained a pair of scissors and umbilical cord band, which she placed in alcohol for disinfection before use. For the women under birth, she provided a bed slider. How long she has worked and lived is not known.”
~ Obstetrics in the Menno Colony from the settlement 1927-28 (until the hospital came into existence in the late 1940s), edited by the History Committee, published by Friesen Printing, Loma Plata, Paraguay, November 2004
~ Veronica Funk