Mary Breckinridge

September 17, 2010 in 1960s-1970s

Mary Breckinridge (1881-1965), a registered nurse, dedicated her life to improving the health of women and children.  In her autobiography written in 1952, she recalled, “After I click had met British nurse-midwives, first in France and then on my visits to London, it grew upon me that nurse-midwifery was the logical response to the needs of the young child in rural America.”  She Breckinridge decided to tackle the health problems of children and their mothers in eastern Kentucky.

Established the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) in 1925
Founded a hospital that served rural families across southeastern Kentucky mountains in an area ranging about 700 square miles
FNS included a service in which nurse-midwives visited clients at their homes
The death of mothers in childbirth in Leslie County, Kentucky, dropped “from the highest in the country to well below the national average (Gina Castlenovo, Biography of Mary Breckinridge, The Center for Nursing Advocacy, Inc., 2003).”


The American College of Nurse Midwives recognizes Breckinridge as “the first to bring nurse-midwifery to the United States.”  In 1982, Breckinridge was inducted into the American Nurses Association’s Hall of Fame.

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