Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mary Wilson Neel, December 1, 1979

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:15 - Washington Committee of the Frontier Nursing Service

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Partial Transcript: Perhaps you can tell me the first--your first recollections of the FNS and how you learned about it.

Segment Synopsis: Mary Wilson Neel is introduced. She talks about how she became aware of the Frontier Nursing Service. She talks about her involvement on the Washington Committee, and some of the other members. She talks about the fundraising events the committee held.

Keywords: Chairman; Couriers; Donor list; Donors; Frontier Nursing Service Washington Committee; Fundraising benefits; Lectures; Marian Shouse; Marvin Breckinridge Patterson; Mary Breckinridge; Meetings; Mothers; Mrs. Groaner; Textiles Museum

Subjects: Benefactors; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Charity; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Medical centers--Finance; Philanthropists

00:03:29 - Rural conditions in the FNS service area

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Partial Transcript: Mrs. Breckinridge at that time, this was in about 1939-40, had a, had a broken back, as I'm sure everybody knows.

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about Mary Breckinridge making speeches at fundraising events about the rural conditions faced by the FNS and the people they served. She talks about traveling to the FNS headquarters at Wendover and working there as a courier. She talks about the living conditions there and the difficulty of transportation.

Keywords: Agnes Lewis; Broken back; Couriers; Distance; Fundraising; Garden House; Housing; Lamps; Mary Breckinridge; Nurse midwives; Public speaking; Speeches; Stories; Travel; Wendover (Ky.)

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Country life; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Rural conditions; Rural roads; Transportation--Kentucky; Volunteers

00:08:19 - Duties of a courier

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Partial Transcript: Can you remember some of your specific duties and jobs as a courier?

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about the many various tasks that were assigned to couriers as needed. She talks about caring for the horses, running errands, and accompanying nurses on home visits. She talks about meeting the local people.

Keywords: Accents; Duties; Errands; Fees; Home delivery; Home visits; Horses; Jean Hollins; Kate Ireland; Kermit; Local people; Name tag; Outpost centers; Relationships; Responsibilities; Senior Courier; Welcoming

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Country life; Maternal health services.; Medical care--Appalachian Region; Midwifery--Appalachian Region; Nurses; Regionalism--Appalachian Region; Rural health services

00:13:52 - Mary Breckinridge

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Partial Transcript: I adored Mrs. Breckinridge and admired her extravagantly.

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about Mary Breckinridge's influence on her life, and describes her personality.

Keywords: Children; Education; Influence; Library; Personality; Relationships; Routine; Spiritual strength

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965

00:16:48 - Christmas pageant at Wendover

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Partial Transcript: I had, uh, some unique experiences.

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about creating a Christmas pageant involving many of the local children. She talks about teaching them to sing, and briefly about their living conditions. She talks about how funerals were personal affairs handled by friends, not a business.

Keywords: Changes; Christmas pageants; Concerts; Deaths; Funerals; High schools; Singing; Songs

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Christmas--Appalachian Region; Country life; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:21:20 - Daily life at Wendover

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Partial Transcript: Was Mrs. Breckinridge there a lot of the time when you were there?

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about many of the daily activities at Wendover, including meals, Mary Breckinridge feeding her animals, and entertainment during the evenings. She tells stories about interactions with the local people: how the nurses obtained "white lightning" moonshine to help a sick horse; being taught how to churn butter; an arduous journey to bring two cows to an outpost center; and accompanying children on the train to hospitals in Lexington and Cincinnati.

Keywords: "White Lightning"; Animals; Beech Fork Center; Bowlingtown (Ky.); Chickens; Children; Christmas; Churning butter; Cincinnati (Ohio); Clothing; Entertainment; Evenings; Games; Garden House; Geese; Guests; Horseback riding; Horses; Illnesses; Lexington (Ky.); Mary Breckinridge; Milking cows; Moonshine; Operations; Outpost centers; Outpost clinics; Reading; Routine; Serving tea; Surgery; Trains; Wendover (Ky.); Winter

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Country life; Distilling, illicit; Farm life--Appalachian Region; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Horses--Transportation; Medical care--Appalachian Region; Recreation; Rural children; Rural conditions; Rural health services; Traditional medicine

00:33:27 - Illness while working at the FNS

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Partial Transcript: I was appointed, uh, Christmas Secretary nineteen, what, 1940? Or thir--1939, I guess.

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about coming to Wendover to work as the Christmas Secretary but having to leave early due to an appendicitis. She talks about returning to the FNS for a reunion and stepping on a rusty nail which required her to have a tetanus shot.

Keywords: Ann MacKinnon ("Mac"); Appendicitis; Attic; Christmas Secretary; Courier Conclave; Donations; GRAB; Gifts; Hyden (Ky.); Mary Breckinridge; Nails; Reunions; Tetanus shots; Wendover (Ky.)

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Medical care--Appalachian Region; Rural health services

00:37:56 - Friendships among those at the FNS

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Partial Transcript: After you married in early 1940? Forty--

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about her continued involvement with the FNS after her marriage, through her leadership of the Washington Committee as well as her daughters' work as couriers. She talks about how the rural conditions at the FNS led to close friendships among the staff. She talks about teaching Brownie to ride a horse.

Keywords: Chairman; Childbirth; Couriers; Daughters; Emergencies; Experiences; Friendships; Frontier Nursing Service Washington Committee; Helen Browne ("Brownie"); Horseback riding; Involvement; Local people; Married; Relationships; Staff; Vice chairman

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Country life; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Horses--Transportation; Medical care--Appalachian Region; Nurses; Rural conditions; Rural health services

00:42:25 - More on the Washington Committee of the Frontier Nursing Service

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Partial Transcript: Can you think of any highlights of the activities of the Washington Committee during your involvement with them?

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks more about the activities of the Washington Committee, including some of the well-known guests and speakers. She talks about the committee's fundraising efforts.

Keywords: British Embassy; Charities; Committees; Directors; First Ladies; First Lady Bess Truman; First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt; Frontier Nursing Service Washington Committee; Fundraising benefits; Grants; Leadership; Mrs. Roosevelt; Mrs. Truman; Speakers

Subjects: Benefactors; Charity; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Medical centers--Administration; Medical centers--Finance; Philanthropists; Washington (D.C.)

00:48:22 - Changes to the FNS

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Partial Transcript: --the Frontier Nursing Service changed since Mary Breckinridge's death in 1965?

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about some of the changes that have occurred within the FNS due to factors like government reimbursement for healthcare, and increasing medical records. She talks more about the conditions in Hyden, Kentucky.

Keywords: Changes; Courier Conclaves; Election Day; Government; Healthcare; Helen Browne ("Brownie"); Hospital deliveries; Hyden (Ky.); Isolation; Leadership; Mary Breckinridge; Medical records; Reunions

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Country life; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Health facilities.; Medical care--Appalachian Region; Medical centers--Administration; Rural conditions; Rural health services; Transportation--Kentucky

00:52:22 - Flu epidemic at the FNS

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Partial Transcript: Can you think of any other, um, instances or happenings that--

Segment Synopsis: Neel talks about Mary Breckinridge calling her to return to the FNS during a flu epidemic that made much of the staff unable to work. She talks about drinking whiskey in an attempt to keep from falling ill herself.
[The interview concludes at 56:30.]

Keywords: Attitudes; Couriers; Drinking alcohol; Duties; Initiative; Marian Shouse; Mary Breckinridge; Responsibilities; Sherry; Wendover (Ky.); Whiskey

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Influenza Epidemic; Medical care--Appalachian Region; Nurses; Rural health services; Traditional medicine; Volunteers