Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

March 2

Women You Never Heard of on Stamps You Never Use:

Mary Breckenridge

Not only had I never heard of Mary Breckenridge, I had also never heard of the Frontier Nursing Services, a rural Kentucky healthcare facility she founded that focuses on midwifery and child health. It's still active today.

Mary Breckenridge was born on February 17, 1881, in Memphis, Tennessee, into a life of priviledge. Mary lived in Russia during her father's tenure as ambassador during the reign of Tsar Nicholas from 1894-1897. (Tsar Nicholas ruled from 1894, when his father died, until he and his family were killed in 1918.) Later, she attended private schools in Switzerland and Connecticut.

At 23, Mary married an attorney with whom she was deeply in love. Tragically, he died of appendicitis when she was 26, and shortly thereafter she entered nursing school, graduating in 1910.

1912 found Mary teaching French and Hygiene at Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where her new husband was school president. In 1914, Mary's first child, a son, was born, and in 1916, a daughter. The little girl was premature and died within days, and in 1918 appendicitis caused the death of her boy. She then divorced her husband, had her maiden name legally restored, swore never to marry again, and turned to nursing full-time, going to Europe after the end of the First World War to join the American Committee for Devastated France.

While in Europe, Mary observed the work of midwives and nurses who specialized in the care of mothers and children. Realizing the need for these same services in the United States, Mary returned and went back to school, eventually forming Frontier Nursing Services in 1925.

Some years later, a fall from a horse left Mary crippled but still undaunted. There are many pictures of Mary online and all show an aging and kind face smiling beatifically. What a woman--a real saint in my book.


Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Chad (not the saint to be invoked against election shenanigans, but he should be) or Ceadda.

Celebrating birthdays today: John Cullum (1930, Knoxville, TN), Jennifer Jones (1919, Tulsa), Laraine Newman (1952, Los Angeles).


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© Marilyn Jones 2001-2008