March is Women’s History Month. To celebrate, West Glamorgan Archive Service will be sharing stories about the fascinating lives of some of the area’s local women. These stories will focus on women who have not already been recognised or written about, and showcase documents within their collections. This story of Jane Phillips, midwife, is one example of the items they are sharing this month.
Jane Phillips of Swansea, midwife, 1859
Swansea St Marys, Sextons Book
Browsing through some of the earlier records held at the Archives, I came across the name of three midwives; Mrs Ann Williams was a midwife at Wind Street, Swansea in 1758 (P123/23 Poor Relief Rate Book), and Elizabeth Howell was a midwife in Swansea in 1791 (Universal British Directory). I also found a mention of a Mrs Phillips, midwife aged 71, buried at St Mary’s Church, Swansea.
After more digging around, I eventually found that Mrs Phillips was Jane and the inscription on her headstone read:
“Sacred to the memory of Mrs Jane Phillips of this town, midwife, wife of Thomas Phillips, mason, who departed this life June 7, 1859, aged 71 years. She, in 30 years attended to the birth of 9000 children.”
Further investigation found an obituary for Jane featured in The Cambrian newspaper dated 10 June 1859. It describes Jane Phillips as “a women esteemed by all classes…her services were anxiously sought after by ladies of high standing as well as by those in more humble sphere…Mrs Phillips having fulfilled her duties for upwards of thirty years, she assisted at the birth of nine thousand children – enough to populate a town of nearly double the size of Neath…Surely such a woman…deserves to have her name handed down to posterity, as one who rendered her day and generation much service”.
I am glad to have found Jane Phillips and to share her story with a new generation. It makes me wonder how many Swansea inhabitants descend from children born thanks to the help of Mrs Phillips.
West Glamorgan Archives