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Maude Callen on duty. In December 1951, LIFE published one of the most extraordinary photo essays ever to appear in the magazine. In W. Eugene Smith’s pictures, the story of a tireless South Carolina nurse and midwife named Maude Callen working in the rural South in the 1950s. She served as “doctor, dietician, psychologist, bail-goer and friend” to thousands of poor (most of them desperately poor) patients — only two percent of whom were white.
When you COULD call the midwife! Britain had 10,000 district nurses and midwives in the 1950s. And, as these pictures show, they were the heartbeat of the community.
Angélique-Marguerite du Coudray was a famous 18th century midwife and designed this mannequin to teach midwife trainees about delivering babies. Louis XV learned of her expertise and asked her to set up courses throughout France. From 1759-1779 she traveled the country with her mannequin and published her Abrégé de l’Art des accouchements (Abridged Art of Child Delivery).
Nurse Midwife Maude Callen 1951 | W. Eugene Smith’s Landmark Photo Essay, ‘Nurse Midwife’ | LIFE.com