Church Mothers: Mrs. Ora D. Jackson

In honor of Mother's Day, we are celebrating a group of women in the Mississippi Delta who anchor their communities as only a mother can.

Story by Alysia Burton Steele
Mrs. Ora D. Jackson
Photo: Alysia Burton Steele

Merigold, MS
Age: 84

Matriarch of: 5 children, 17 grandchildren, 32 great-grands, and 4 great-great-grands

"I tell them I saw them before their mama did. I had one niece, she was born and wasn't nobody there but me. The cord was wrapped around her neck. I knowed how to take it loose. Turn her bottom over and thump her on her feet and she hollered. Someone had to do it. The first baby I helped was one of my sister's. That was in 1959. I was 29 years old then. This was the first time. She was at our mother's house, she went into labor and I had to be strong. That was the first time I ever been around it. I smoked a whole pack of cigarettes, a pack of Salem, while she was in labor. Was hopin' she would go ahead and have the baby. She had a midwife. I didn't like the way [the midwife] had her bearing down. She just got weak and I just got aggravated wit' the midwife and I told her, I said, 'You do what I say.' She so weak, I set her legs up, I got behind her back and shoulders. I said, 'When the pain hits, you bear.' She pushed the baby on out, but the baby was dead. They carried the baby and buried her. The second time, it didn't bother me. No fears. I put faith in God. That one came out okay. After the baby was born, I just got everything cleaned up and brought them home. Then I had to do Christmas cookin'. This was Christmas Eve. I went home and cooked at my house. It was kinda tiresome. I just did it. I stayed up all night and just did it."