By Anne Z. Cockerham
9 x 11
Pub Date: April 2014
After Mary Breckinridge established the Frontier Nursing Service in the mountains of eastern Kentucky in 1925 she soon realized that she needed help of a different nature than her British-trained nurse-midwives could provide. Recalling how a system of volunteer "girl chauffeurs" facilitated the work of the American Committee for Devastated France after World War I, Mrs. Breckinridge developed a similar plan for the Frontier Nursing Service.
Mrs. Breckinridge's strategy to recruit volunteers to assist Frontier nurses; care for animals; ferry supplies, medicines, and messages; and escort guests turned out to be wildly successful. Couriers contributed significantly to the success of the Frontier Nursing Service by doing most everything that didn't require a nurse's expertise. Couriers' work helped preserve the nurses' time and energy needed to care for impoverished mountain families. Couriers were companions and guides, riding instructors, and nurses' aides. Couriers boosted the financial health of the Frontier Nursing Service in the short term by donating many hours of labor and in the long term as enduring supporters and Frontier Nursing Service ambassadors.
As readers of Unbridled Service explore the history of the Courier Service, they come to appreciate the ways that Couriers and the Courier Service changed and the ways they remained the same through the years. Some Couriers spent more of their time caring for animals and traversing mountain paths on horseback, whereas others devoted more energy to observing Frontier clinicians and completing community projects. Some chose Frontier because they were "at loose ends," uncertain about what else to do at that time of their lives. Other Couriers felt drawn to the iconic images of Frontier horses and nurses. Still others came to Eastern Kentucky with the express purpose of gaining medical or nursing experience to guide future career decisions. Whether a Courier served in the 1920s or the 2000s and no matter the motivation to serve, Courier experiences were filled with adventure and meaning.
About the Author
Anne Z. Cockerham earned a certificate from the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing as a nurse-midwife in 2001 and as a women's health nurse practitioner in 2003. Her degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Virginia in 1990, a Master of Science in Nursing from Case Western Reserve University in 2001, and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Virginia in 2008. She is an Associate Professor at Frontier Nursing University where she is also the Associate Dean for Midwifery and Women's Health, and the Frontier Nursing University Professor of History. Her research focus is nursing history, particularly the history of nurse-midwives in the Frontier Nursing Service and the Catholic Maternity Institute. With co-author Arlene W. Keeling, PhD, RN, she wrote Rooted in the Mountains, Reaching to the World: Stories of Nursing and Midwifery at Kentucky's Frontier School, 1939-1989, winner of a 2012 American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award.