LIFE photo essay: Maude Callen, Nurse Midwife

  1. maude callen: nurse and midwife

    year: 1951
    location: south carolina

    comforting a paralyzed man in a wheelchair who weeps at her soothing touch

    from natural medicane website:

    [color=#005f8c]maude callen was born in quincy, florida, in 1898. she was educated at florida a & m and took a nursing course before moving to berkeley county as a nurse and midwife in 1923. sponsored by the episcopal church, callen spent 13 years as a nurse and midwife in the pineville area before joining the berkeley county health department. her work, which included the training of hundreds of midwifes, took her to all parts of berkeley county.

    in 1951, life magazine published a twelve-page photographic profile of callen’s work, which generated some $27,000 in contributions used to construct a modern clinic in pineville. callen continued work at this clinic until her retirement in 1971.

    callen was named outstanding older south carolinian in 1981 by the south carolina commission on aging, and was presented the order of the palmetto by governor richard w. riley.

    she was also presented the alexis de tocqueville society award in 1984 for sixty years of service to her community and was featured in a 1983 segment of "on the road with charles kuralt."

    honored many times in berkeley county, callen continued to volunteer as manager of the senior citizens nutrition council in pineville and personally delivered meals on wheels five days a week until her death in 1990.

    teaching midwifery class

    on a more upbeat note, we can witness the ministrations of a healer made famous by smith (who suffered severe shrapnel wounds as a photographer in world war ii). in 1951, while on the staff of life magazine, he followed a remarkable certified nurse-midwife, maude callen, as she made her rounds in rural south carolina, not only helping women to deliver their babies but also attending to the general health-care needs of an impoverished population. her profession, more akin to that of a physician than of a simple midwife, was created in the early 20th century by public health doctors and nurses.

    in smith's impassioned pictures (he was of the old-fashioned activist breed), we see callen delivering a baby; teaching a class of midwife trainees; vaccinating children; comforting a paralyzed man in a wheelchair who weeps at her soothing touch; and racing to a distant hospital in the vain hope of saving a dying infant. in one incident, photographed in a segregated hospital, smith himself gave blood for transfusion to a moribund infant. callen, an african-american, helplessly stood by as a white doctor botched the procedure and nurses complained about a white man giving blood to a black child.

    church setting used as clinic: nurses do know how to improvise!

    perils and pitfalls of home nursing:
    getting to and from homes in remote locations.

    preparing for delivery:

    view all the photos from this life photo essay at:

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  3. by   Spritenurse1210
    Very informative!!!
  4. by   Teresag_CNS
    Thank you, Maude Callen. You are part of our shared history.
  5. by   herring_RN
    Good for all of us!

    Our work is vital.

    Caring + education + advocacy = nursing.

    We have many unsung heros.