Maude E. Callen
Maude E. Callen (November 8, 1898, Quincy, Florida – January 23, 1990, Pineville, South Carolina) was a nurse-midwife in the South Carolina Lowcountry for over 60 years. Her work was brought to national attention in W. Eugene Smith's photo essay, "Nurse Midwife," published in Life in December 1951.
Early life and education
Maude E. Callen was born in Quincy, Florida in 1898. She had twelve sisters and was orphaned by the age of six. She was brought up in the home of her uncle Dr. William J. Gunn, a physician in Tallahassee, Florida.
Callen devoted her life to nursing in some of the most poverty-stricken areas in the southern United States. She graduated from Florida A. & M. College in 1922 and later completed a nursing course at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. By 1923, she had set up her own practice as a nurse-midwife in Berkeley County, one of the poorest in South Carolina at the time. She received additional training from the Georgia Infirmary in Savannah and in tuberculosis care at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
Callen married William D. Callen in 1921 and they moved together to Pineville, South Carolina when she was called as a missionary nurse.
Work as a nurse–midwife
In 1923, Callen moved to Pineville, Berkeley County, South Carolina as an Episcopal missionary nurse. The position was intended to be temporary. She was one of only nine nurse–midwives in South Carolina at the time.
Callen operated a community clinic out of her home, which was miles from any hospital. "It is estimated she delivered between six hundred and eight hundred babies in her sixty-two years of practice." In addition to providing medical services, Callen taught women from the community to be midwives.
She provided in-home services to “an area of some 400 square miles veined with muddy roads”, serving as “'doctor, dietitian, psychologist, bail-goer, and friend to thousands of poor (most of them desperately poor) patients — only two percent of whom were white”.
Conditions in Berkeley County were difficult:
- "[A]t the edge of Hell Hole Swamp in Pineville houses were still lit by oil lamps, not electricity. Not having power lines meant no telephones, and people went to town by wagon or buggy."
- "Nurse Maude recalled that there were only two cars in Berkeley County and none of the roads were paved. Many of her patients arrived at her home in oxcarts in the middle of the night."
- "[Cullen] frequently had to park her car and walk through mud, woods, and creeks to reach her patients."
In 1936, Cullen joined the Berkeley County Health Department as a public health nurse. Her job included training midwives throughout the county. She taught young black women the proper practices in prenatal care, labor support, baby delivery, and handling of newborns. "Her duties included vaccinations, examinations, and keeping records on the children’s eyes and teeth."
In December 1951, Life magazine published a twelve-page photographic essay of Callen’s work by the celebrated photojournalist, W. Eugene Smith. Smith spent weeks with Callen at her clinic and on her rounds in the community. Smith is quoted as saying the photographs he took of Nurse Maude were the "most rewarding of all [his] work" and that Callen was "the most completely fulfilled person I have ever known."
On publication of the photo-essay, readers donated more than $20,000 to support Callen's work in Pineville. As a result, the Maude E. Callen Clinic opened in 1953. Callen ran the clinic until her retirement from public health duties in 1971. (It closed in 1986.)
Work with senior citizens
After her retirement in 1971, Callen petitioned county officials to start a Senior Citizens Nutrition Site, which operated, starting in 1980, out of the clinic. As a volunteer, Callen managed the center, which cooked and delivered meals five days a week, and provided car service to seniors needing transportation. A local news article stated: “At 85, Miss Maude serves meals each weekday to some 50 elderly residents, most of them younger than she is.” She is quoted as having said, on turning down an invitation from President Reagan to visit the White House, “You can’t just call me up and ask me to be somewhere. I've got to do my job.”
She continued her volunteer work until her death in 1990.
Awards and honors
- 1981 – Outstanding Older South Carolinian.
- 1981 – Order of the Palmetto by Governor Richard W. Riley.
- 1983 – Featured in a segment of On the Road with Charles Kuralt.
- 1983 – Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Clemson University, to honor her “for serving the people of Pineville ‘who she birthed, nursed, comforted, sometimes clothed and fed, and even taught to read.’”
- 1984 – The Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award (United Way of America).
- 1984 – The Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
- 1984 - American Institute of Public Service Award.
- 1989 – Honorary degree from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). The MUSC College of Nursing also created the Maude E. Callen Scholarship for nursing students.
- 1998 - The Callen–Lacey Center for Children, an emergency shelter for children in Berkeley County, is dedicated to her memory and that of Dr. William H. Lacey.
Cullen also won the Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce’s Honorary Citizen’s Award.
- Darlene Clark Hine, "Taking care of bodies, babies and business: Black women health professionals in South Carolina, 1895–1954"; in Elizabeth Anne Payne, ed, Writing Women's History: A Tribute to Anne Firor Scott (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), pp. 133–136. Much of this is displayed here in Google Books. Accessed 4 October 2013.
- Jeanne Bryner, "Maude Callen", Tenderly Lift Me: Nurses Honored, Celebrated, and Remembered (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2004), pp. 63–64; here at Google Books.
- Warner M. Montgomery, "Pineville, a historic refuge. Part 53: Nurse Maude Callen", The Columbia Star.(subscription required)
- Ben Cosgrove, accompanying "W. Eugene Smith’s Landmark Photo Essay, ‘Nurse Midwife’", life.com. (Slideshow contains additional photographs not originally published in the magazine.)
- "Nurse and midwife Maude Callen dies", The News and Courier (Charleston, SC), January 24, 1990. Here at Google Books. Accessed 5 October 2013.
- Thomas, Jamie. “Clemson to honor Maude Callen of Pineville”, The News and Co /The Evening Post, December 18, 1983, Charleston, SC.
- "On the Road with Charles Kuralt: Episode guide", MSN. Accessed 5 October 2013.
- Television listings, Ocala Star-Banner, 16 August 1983. Here at Google Books. Accessed 5 October 2013.
- "MUSC Foundation Scholarships for Nurses", Medical University of South Carolina, 2012. Accessed 5 October 2013.
- "Callen–Lacey Center for Children", Carolina Youth Development Center. Accessed 5 October 2013.