Mary Breckinridge and the Frontier Nursing Service


In 1925, Mary Breckinridge founded the Frontier Nursing Service in eastern Kentucky.  As one of the first programs of its kind in the nation, the Frontier Nursing Service was designed to provide prenatal child care and professional midwifery services to the people of Leslie County, Kentucky where the infant mortality rate was extremely high.  Still in existence today, the Frontier Nursing Service has continued to be on the forefront of midwifery education and practices.  This pathfinder serves as a beginning guide to resources concerning Mary Breckinridge and the Frontier Nursing Service including its implications for the Appalachian region and beyond, midwifery, public nursing, and child healthcare issues.

Introductory Text: 

Carraco, Carol C.  "Mary Breckinridge." The Kentucky Encyclopedia.  Ed. John E. Kleber.   Lexington, KY:  University of Kentucky Press, 1992.  pps. 119-20.  ASU APP COLL STACK F451 .K413 1992
Klotter, James C.  “Mary Breckinridge:  (1881-1965) Nurse-midwife and health reformer.”  Encyclopedia of Appalachia.  Eds.Abramson, Rudy and Jean Haskell.  Knoxville:  The University of Tennessee Press, 2006. pps. 1642-43 and 1649-50.  ASU APP COLL STACKS F 106 .E53 2006.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Most relevant:

  • Nursing
  • Midwifery/Midwives
  • Kentucky--History--1865-present

Also relevant:

  • Rural health services -- Kentucky
  • Midwives -- Kentucky
  • Medical care -- Kentucky
  • Child Health Services -- Kentucky
  • Maternal Health Services -- Kentucky
  • Maternal and Infant Welfare -- Kentucky
  • Women in Medicine
Clipping Files Subject Headings - W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Medical Care
  • Midwives/Midwifery
  • Kentucky
  • Women
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • RT 37 .B72
  • RT 34
  • RT 98
  • RG 950
  • RG 960
  • F 446 .K43
  • F 452
  • F 216.2
  • F 106
  • RA 771-771.7
  • R 692

Barney, Sandra Lee.  Authorized to Heal:  Gender, Class, and the Transformation of Medicine in Appalachia, 1880-1930.  Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2000.   ASU APP COLL STACK  R692 .B67 2000.
Breckinridge, Mary.  Wide Neighborhoods; A Story of the Frontier Nursing Service.     New York:   Harper & Brothers, 1952.   ASU APP COLL STACKS RT 37 .B72 A3.

Dammann, Nancy.  A Social History of the Frontier Nursing Service.  Sun City, AZ:   Social Change Press, 1982.  ASU APP COLL STACK RT 98.D 35 1982.

Gardner, Caroline.  Clever Country:  Kentucky Mountain Trails.  New York, NY:  Fleming  H. Revell, Co., 1931.   ASU APP COLL STACK  F 452.G25.

Goan, Melanie Beals.  Mary Breckinridge:  The Frontier Nursing Service and Rural Health in Appalachia.  Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2008.  ASU APP COLL RT37 .B72.

Moseley, Elizabeth R. and Katharine E. Wilkie.  Frontier Nurse; Mary Breckinridge.   New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1969.  ASU APP COLL STACKS RT 37 .B72 W5.

Poole, Ernest.  Nurses On Horseback.  New York:  Macmillan, 1932.   ASU APP COLL STACKS RT 37 .P75.

Wells, Rosemary.  Mary on Horseback.  New York:  Dial Books, 1998.  ASU IMC STACKS 92 B829we.

Wilkie, Katharine Elliott and Elizabeth R. Moseley.  Frontier Nurse; Mary Breckinridge.  New York:  Messner, 1969. 195 pages.  ASU APP COLL STACKS:  RT 37 .B72 W5.

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Abramson, Rudy and Jean Haskell, eds.  Encyclopedia of Appalachia.  Knoxville:  The University of Tennessee Press, 2006. pps. 191, 1642-43, 1645, 1649-50, 1663.  ASU APP COLL STACKS F 106 .E53 2006.

Ferris, William and Charles Reagan Wilson, eds.  Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.  Chapel Hill, NC:  UNC Press, 1989.pps. 1342, 1364-65, 1527, 1547 ASU APP COLL STACKS oversize F209 .E53 1989.

Kleber, John E., ed. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, KY:  University of Kentucky  Press, 1992. pps. 119-20.   ASU APP COLL STACKS F451 .K413 1992.
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen.  Historical Encyclopedia of Nursing.  Santa Barbara:  ABC-Clio, 1999.  RT31 .S66.


Appalachian Bibliography.  Morgantown:  West Virginia University Libraries, 1968-80.   vol. 1, pps.  310, 370, 383, 385, 391, 407 and 637.  ASU APP COLL STACKS Z 1251 .A7.

Bryant, Ron D.  Kentucky History:  An Annotated Bibliography.  Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 2000. pps. 68, 165-66, 304, 396. ASU APP COLL STACKS Z 1287 .B79 2000.

Edwards, Everett E.  References of the Mountaineers of the Southern Appalachians.  Washington, D.C.:  United States Department of Agriculture, 1935.  pps.  43, 98-100.  ASU APP COLL STACKS Z 1251 .A7 E28.

Farr, Sidney Saylor.  Appalachian Women: An Annotated Bibliography.  Lexington, KY:   University of Kentucky Press, 1981. pps. 23, 810-11, 821-22, 830-31, 839-41.  ASU  APP COLL STACKS Z 7064 .A127 F37.

Mertins, Barbara.  Reading For Young People:  Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia. Chicago:American Library Association, 1985.  pps. 203, 90, and 9.  ASU APP COLL Z  1287 .K38

Appalachian Outlook.  Morgantown:  West Virginia University Library.  Quarterly 1964-present.  ASU APP COLL STACKS Z 1251 .A7.

Abstracts and Indices: 

Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature. (CINAHL).  Dublin, OH:  OCLC  Online Computer Library Center, Inc., 1982-present.   This database is updated  monthly and contains nearly 900 nursing, allied health, biomedical and consumer health journals.  References several journal articles, books and book reviews pertaining to the Frontier Nursing Service including locations of the FNS Quarterly Bulletin.

Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature.  Glendale, CA:  Glendale Adventist Medical Center. v. 22, 1977 to rpesent.  ASU REFERENCE: RT1 .C82.

Women's Resource International.  Baltimore, MD:  National Information Services Corp.,  1997-present.  This database contains an index of interdisciplinary journals which reference women's studies issues.  Several articles are found on Mary Breckinridge and the Frontier Nursing Service.

Dissertation Abstracts.  Ann Arbor, MI:  University Microfilm, 1861-present.  Lists dissertations and masters theses from a variety of academic abstracts.

America History and Life.  Santa Barbara, CA:  Clio Press.  Contains article abstracts and citations from American history bibliographies, books, and dissertations.   ASU  REFERENCE  E11 .A45  (relevant search terms Mary Breckinridge, The  Frontier Nursing Service). America:  History and Life.  A guide to the periodical literature in the American Studies field, including History, Folklore, and the Humanaties.  Updated three times a year.  Http://


Appalachia:  Journal of the Appalachian Regional Commission.  Washington, DC:  Appalachian Regional Commission.  1967-  ASU APP COLL STACKS  HC107  .A137 A3.  Online index, May 1996 to present:

Appalachian Heritage.  Berea, KY:  Berea College, 1973-.  ASU APP COLL STACKS F106  .A137 A6.

Appalachian Journal.  Boone, NC:  Appalachian State University. Semiannual, Autumn  1972-Spring 1974;  Quarterly Autumn 1974-.  ASU APP COLL STACKS F216.2  A66.

Frontier Nursing Service Quarterly Bulletin.  Lexington, KY:  v.65, 1989-1990 only.  ASU APP COLL STACKS:  RT1 .F 76.

Journal of Appalachian Studies.  Morgantown, WV:  Regional Research Institute, West Virginia University.  Semiannual, 1995-. ASU APP COLL STACKS F106 .J74.

Mountain Life and Work.  Berea, KY:  Berea College, 1925-1988.  ASU APP COLL STACKS  GR 103 .M5.

Now and Then.  Johnson City, TN:  Center for Appalachian Studies and Services. 1984-  ASU APP COLL STACKS F217 .A65 N68.

Quarterly Bulletin of the Kentucky Committee for Mother and Babies.  Lexington, KY:  1989-1990. vol. 65     ASU APP COLL STACKS  RT1  .F76 v65 Register of the Kentucky Historical Society Review.  Louisville, KY:  Filson Club. vol. 64, no.     1, 3-4; vol. 66 no. 2; vol. 70, no.3;  vol. 71, no.1; vol. 79, no. 4; vol. 80-82; vol. 93,  no. 2. ASU APP COLL STACK  F446 .K43.  

Websites:  "The FNS Foundation" site contains information about the history and current happenings of the Frontier Nursing Service foundation, the Mary Breckinridge hospital, the Courier Program and the School of Midwifery.  Allen, Susan E. and Terry Birdwhistell, "Frontier Nursing Service Oral History Project"  this site contains an index of a collection of oral histories about the Frontier Nursing Service.  "Mary Breckinridge" site contains history of Leslie County, Kentucky the home site of the Frontier Nursing Service.  It includes a brief history of the Frontier Nursing Service as well as maps of the county, local news and current events concerning the FNS.  This site increases public understanding of nursing.

Audio and Video Sources: 

The Frontier Nursing Service.  Whitesburg, KY:  Appalshop, 1984.   ASU APP COLL  STACK VC 32.

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Amy Sparrow, 30 November 2000

Updated by: 

Updated: Lisa Baldwin, 8 October 2009