Rachel Frances (Tucker) Hillyard Avery

(Photo courtesy her 2 x grand daughter Khiya Hillyard)

Rachel Frances (Fanny) Tucker was born 15 December 1890 in St. Jones Within, daughter of James John and Susanna (Smith) Tucker. She married Elijah Hillyard on 2 November 1910 in St. John’s. Elijah and Fanny had two children.

After the death of Elijah, Fanny married James Avery of Southport on 24 May 1917 in St. Jones Within. James and Fanny raised their family (they had six children) in Southport. 

At the age of 30 years, Aunt Fanny, as she was commonly known, started to help out the midwife in Southport. When Aunt Fanny was 34 years old she became the community midwife and was the midwife until she was 69 years old.

Aunt Fanny did not choose to become a midwife – but she was selected by the previous midwife – Aunt Jessie Dean. Aunt Jessie would pick out the women to help her out in a lot of cases. She asked Aunt Fanny to help because “she had a good nerve and a bit of education.”

As Aunt Jessie aged, the women of the community stated going to Aunt Fanny. It is reported that Aunt Fanny said, “I was the only one around. What could I do? I had to go.”

Aunt Fanny trained at the Grace. She was a midwife from 1923 until 1958. Aunt Fanny travelled on foot paths on foot, by horse and by boat as she served three communities – Southport, Gooseberry Cove and Butter Cove. She charged a fee of $3 and kept her own records. It is reported that she delivered 127 babies – of which only two died, both were part of a twin and the other two lived.

Aunt Fanny was also called upon to lay people out when they passed away.

Aunt Fanny passed away in 1984 at the age of 94 years. 



The Role of Newfoundland Midwife in Traditional Health Care 1900 – 1970 by Janet Elizabeth McNaughton,  1989. (PhD. Thesis)

Aunt Fanny: Midwife of the Outport community of Southport from 1923-1958 by Christopher Albert Smith.