Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Mieography

Short and sweet this week

Mary Breckinridge was born to a prestigious family, the daughter and grand daughter of congressmen of the state of Tennessee. She was educated privately, by private tutors. The family lived in Washington, DC, until her father was appointed to be the U.S. minister to Russia. They moved to St. Petersburg, after that.
Her mother disapproved of women going to college, and ensured her daughter follow a "traditional" pathway. She married a lawyer from Hot Springs, Arkansas. Unfortunately, he died 2 years into their marriage, of appendicitis.
Taking matters into her own hands, she enrolled in a Nursing class in NYC, at St. Luke's Hospital. She was there for three years, got her degree, and moved to the south, where she married a native of Kentucky. They lived in Arkansas, and had two children. Mary taught French, and Hygeine, at Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women, where her husband was the school president. Sadly, her daughter, Polly, died when she was only six hours old, and then, tragically, her son died at the age of four, from appendicitis. (appedixes did not like Mary, apparently)
Her husband cheated on her, and their marriage ended in divorce. Mary had her maiden name restored, swore to never marry again, and returned to her nursing. She joined the American Committee for Devastated France after the war, and while in Europe spent much time with both French, and British mid wives. She realized that the healthcare they provided could meet the needs of many women living in rural America. She considered this to be her life's calling.
There were no midwifery courses in the United States, so Mary went to England to receive her training, there. She was certified by the Central Midwives Board, and returned to the United States, where she founded the Kentucky Committee for Mothers and Babies. This soon became the Frontier Nursing Service.
She ran it out of a large, log house (called The Big House) in Wendover, Kentucky. She also conducted Sunday afternoon Episcopalian services there. For years she ran the house completely on her own personal funds. The program was designed around one, centrally located hospital, with one physician, and many nursing outposts. The nurses went to place to place on Horseback, enabling them to reach the most rural, remote areas. Within five years, FNS had reached more than one thousand families, exceeding over 700 miles, and the staff members formed the organization that would become, in the future the American Association of Nurse-Midwives. By this time Mary had figured out how to raise funds, and get publicity, and she kept the place running. She also founded the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing, and trained hundreds of midwives. She ran the Frontier Nursing Services out of the Big House until her death, in 1965, despite having fallen from a horse, and being left crippled.
The FNS hospital is still in Hyden, Kentucky, and is now named the Mary Breckinridge Hospital, and it has a state of the art Women's Health Center, fulfilling Mary's life calling.


sybil law said...

Love these amazing women!

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late this week, but I love Friday's post.

Such amazing women.