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Warrior Women

Let’s start with a warrior woman who was not so famous: Ms Maude Callen. Ms Callen was a nurse-midwife who laboured (Ha!Ha! Did you notice the pun?) in the lowlands of rural Berkeley County, South Carolina, in the heart of America’s South. She was born in Florida in 1898, married Mr Callen in 1921 and, in 1923, relocated to South Carolina as a missionary nurse. It is said the move was to be temporary, but Ms Maude Callen stayed and cared for folks for close to 50 years. Imagine.

 

Just imagine the dedication, the drive, the conviction that what she was doing mattered. And it did. Ms Callen not only delivered babies, but she did it without electricity, without running water and without any backup. Hospitals were few and far between, but mostly just far.

 

The area was largely undeveloped; unpaved roads and miles of swampland. Most of the people in Berkeley County would come to see Nurse Callen in an oxcart. (I don’t know what an oxcart is, and I bet you don’t, either.) Suffice it to say, travel by such a contrivance was the sole method of getting from point A to point B. So, Ms Callen bought herself a car.

 

Maude Callen cared for her patients, yes, but she also brought them food, clothes and, most of all, hope. She set up a vaccination program and traveled all over Berkeley County inoculating men, women and children. She treated tuberculosis patients, bandaged injuries, dispensed medication, held the hands of elders as they slipped away and comforted those left behind.

 

How many nights did Ms Callen spend sitting at the bedside of an ill patient? How many miles did she travel in her car, or on foot? (I have no doubt a car would not be the best way to travel in swampland.) How many babies and mommies did Ms Callen save? We don’t know. We’ll never know. What we do know is that she was tireless. Dedicated. Caring. Strong. A fighter. She worked a six-day week, every week for almost fifty years. Oh, and did I tell you? She made $225 per month.

 

There was so much more to Ms Callen than can be told in a short magazine column. I cannot convey the emotions of this story, the love of her patients and the trust they had in her; the relief at the arrival of a healthy baby; the hope she gave them, that things would be better; the joy of little girls at the sight of new dresses from Nurse Callen. It is all lost in the mists of time.

 

Ms Maude Callen, warrior woman, left this life in 1990. May Goddess keep you safe in her arms, my dear. You deserve it.

 

PS: In 1951, a photographer for Life took a series of photos for that magazine’s December issue. If you want to see Maude Callen in action, go here:

http://life.time.com/history/w-eugene-smith-life-magazine-1951-photo-essay-nurse-midwife/#1

 

Until next time…Blessings