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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.
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).
Nursing pioneer Mary Breckinridge moved to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky in 1925 with the dream of providing family-oriented healthcare to a rural population. She started the Frontier Nursing Service that year and later founded the Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery, today known as Frontier Nursing University. Photo by Wendover Collections/Frontier Nursing University
Ellis Reynolds Shipp was one of the first female doctors in Utah. She founded The School of Nursing and Obstetrics in 1879, and was on the board of the Deseret Hospital Association. She successfully combined motherhood and a medical practice, saying, “It is to me the crowning joy of a woman’s life to be a mother. In her 50-year medical career, she delivered more than 5,000 babies—and led the School of Nursing and Obstetrics in training five hundred women who became licensed midwives.