Huang Yizi, a barefoot midwife who lived one of the most extraordinary lives of the twentieth century, passed away in Guangzhou on May 23, Guangzhou Daily reports. She was 99 years old.
Huang Yizi in the 1960s.
As well as delivering around 3,200 babies as a barefoot midwife, that is a midwife who travels from village to village to deliver babies, Huang was the only deputy of the third National People’s Congress of eastern Guangdong from 1964 to 1974. She attended the National Day rostrum ceremony with Chairman Mao throughout the 1960s and was invited to attend a state banquet with Zhou Enlai.
Born into a peasant family in Xingning in Guangdong in January 1914, Huang did not even have a name until she was well into her adulthood. Her family name was Huang and she was the second child in her family, so she was named Huang Er. After she grew up, the villagers called her Huang Erjie. When she was identified as cadre material, she was named Huang Yizi because that is what the Hakka name Huang Erjie sounds like in Mandarin.
Despite her illiteracy, she impressed with her contagious enthusiasm. Huang joined the Communist Party in 1952 and was assigned to be trained in modern midwifery. When she had completed her training, she would go from village to village with her toolkit delivering babies. At that time the infant mortality rate was very high. But after completing 80 successful deliveries, Huang’s reputation had been established.
Liu Duoxin, Huang’s second son, told the newspaper about some of his childhood memories. “Often, villagers would knock on our door in the middle of the night. If their knocking didn’t wake us up, then the dog’s barking would.” Liu went on to say that her mother would get up and help the villagers, whatever the weather.
Huang in her dotage.
“Back then, the country roads were so rough that they would have to light a torch to make their way to where the pregnant women waited,” said Liu.
By the time she retired in the early 1990s, Huang had helped deliver 3200 babies. According to Liu, Huang often worked for free. Most of the time, she just got one or two Mao to cover the cost of medical instruments. Sometimes, she would bring rice for the patients’ families because everybody was poor at that time.
From 1958 to 1982, Huang served as Director of the Women’s Unit in Nibo Commune and Deputy Secretary of the Party branch among other roles. According to Liu Huanbin, Huang’s eldest son, she was so respected that she would sometimes be called in to help settle domestic disputes.
*Note. Initially we said Huang was born in Xining in Qinghai Province. Actually, she was born in Xingning in Guangdong Province.