Fonds 655 Johanna Haakstad Maternity Home fonds

Johanna Haakstad Maternity Home. — 1929-1942. — 1 cm of textual records.

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Biographical Sketch

Johanna Haakstad was born in Bardu, Norway on the 12th of June 1885 to parents Simon and Sigrid. In 1888, three year-old Johanna along with her parents and siblings Hans, Anna and Elisa left Norway settling in Grant Valley, Minnesota. In Minnesota they farmed and added a son Eddie. The family farmed in the area and Johanna had her first experience as a midwife at age 16. She and her brother were playing near a neighbour’s house when screams were heard. Upon investigation they discovered a women in labour and all alone. Johanna went in to help and her brother ran for their mother. Johanna and her mother helped the lady give birth to twins. This was the the beginning of her career as a midwife.

When Johanna was about 22 years old she had a daughter Thelma and shortly after they and some of the Haakstad family came to Canada. They first settled in Bardo, Alberta and it was in the community of Riley that Johanna did her midwifery training under Dr. McPherson. In 1918 Johanna’s father who was now a widower homesteaded near La Glace on SW9 75 8 W6. He later died in 1928.
The first birth Johanna assisted with in the peace country was Graham Howard who was born in Sexsmith, the son of Len & Florence. Johanna worked for the Howards in their Hardward store which also served as the post office in Sexsmith. Johanna would travel all over the area assisting sometimes with the doctor and other times on her own. Johanna’s job wasn’t finished when the baby was delivered, she would stay on to help with the cooking and running of the home in order that her patient could get some rest.

It was Dr. Gamey when he arrived in 1928 who quickly saw the need for the maternity patients to come to Johanna, and with his encouragement she rented a three-room shack in Sexsmith and the first Maternity Hospital in Sexsmith. The Hospital moved to many different buildings in that town over the years but the care Johanna showed her patients never wavered.

Johanna made national headlines when her care and attention helped to keep a preemie weighing only 1 pound 14 ounces alive. When she successfully saw another preemie through the difficult time after birth she became known as the ‘Florence Nightingale of the North’. This fame brought her to the attention of HRH Princess Alice who asked to have Johanna presented to her on her visit to Grande Prairie. In 1958 Johanna retired after thirty years, having delivered 3,100 babies in the peace region. Their retirement also meant the closing of the Maternity Home. Johanna died at the age of 78 in 1963 and is buried in Northfield Lutheran Church near La Glace.

Johanna’s daughter Thelma married a local man, Bob Smith in 1935. They lived at the hospital as well as lived upstairs. In 1945 they purchased the Buffalo Lakes store and continued to help out at the hospital a few times a week.

Source: Wagon Trails Grown Over, La Glace Yesterday and Today, Alberta Homestead Records

Scope and Content

The fonds consists of a record book containing birth records from Johanna’s Maternity Home in Sexsmith (1929-1942). The notebook contains the mother’s name, the town where she lived, date of admission and discharge, date of the birth of her child and male or female. It was also noted if there was a miscarriage or stillbirth.


*There are restrictions on these records due to privacy.