Michelle R. Edwards MSN, RN
Breckenridge School of Nursing
Mary Breckenridge was born in 1881 in Kentucky. She was born into an influential family, and for that she enjoyed a privileged childhood as well as getting an education in the U.S and Europe. Mary Breckenridge’s father was the U.S ambassador to Czar Nicholas II of Russia. By the time Mary Breckenridge was 26 years old she had become widowed, as well as losing both of her children at an early age. At this time Mary Breckenridge has decided to dedicate her life in improving the health of women and children.(Gina Castlenovo, November 2003.)
Mary Breckinridge became a registered nurse in 1910 and worked at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York. During this time she was as well working in France during World War I, this is where Mary Breckinridge became exposed to new healthcare ideas. Mary Breckenridge stated “After I had met British nurse-midwives, first in France and then on my visits to London, it grew upon me that nurse-midwifery was the logical response to the needs of the young child in rural America… My work would be for them”.(Gina Castlenovo, November 2003.)
Proceeding after World War I Mary Breckenridge went to Columbia University and studied public health. She wanted to conquer the health issues in eastern Kentucky; this area had few roads and absolutely no physicians. Her theory was if she could be successful in such a run down, poor area she could be successful anywhere. Mary Breckenridge got around by traveling horseback and teaching families about their health as well as local lay midwives about birth practices. By doing this she had learned that women lacked prenatal care and gave birth to an average of nine children, this was done by mostly self taught midwives, and farmer’s wives. They relied on traditional beliefs and invasive procedures. (Gina Castlenovo, November 2003.)
Mary Breckinridge believed children’s...