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AJN On the Cover

Fergenson, Michael Senior Editorial Coordinator

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: February 2014 - Volume 114 - Issue 2 - p 21
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000443766.81892.f2
AJN On the Cover

On our cover, in honor of Black History Month, is a photo from W. Eugene Smith's celebrated photo-essay “Nurse Midwife,” which appeared in the December 3, 1951, issue of Life magazine. The essay tells the story of nurse midwife Maude Callen, who served as a “doctor, dietician, psychologist, bail-goer, and friend” to thousands of poor patients in the rural South Carolina town of Pineville in the 1950s. In this photo, Callen is shown departing a delivery at 4:30 am, leaving the patient in the hands of another midwife.

Throughout her 62-year career, Callen tirelessly served the poor, mostly black community of Berkeley County (she drove an average of 36,000 miles each year and worked as much as 16 hours a day). Her story in Life gave readers a glimpse into a world that, for many, was unknown. Nurse midwives were rare at the time, with only nine in South Carolina and 300 in the nation. And although much has changed since then, some themes remain: the Life article highlighted the fact that Callen did not have to compete with physicians because “there are not enough MDs in any case to cover the territory.” After the piece in Life was published, subscribers from all over the country sent donations to help Callen in her work; the money was used to help build a clinic in Pineville, where Callen worked until her retirement in 1971.

Callen was honored with the Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award in 1984 for service to her community and received an honorary degree in 1989 from the Medical University of South Carolina, which later created a scholarship in her name. For more about Callen's life and work, see the full photo-essay here:—Michael Fergenson, senior editorial coordinator

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