Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Margaret Gage, November 29, 1979

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Introduction to the Frontier Nursing Service

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Partial Transcript: This is an unrehearsed interview with Ms. Margaret Gage for the Frontier Nursing Service Oral History Project by Dale Deaton...

Segment Synopsis: Margaret Gage is introduced. She talks about meeting Mary Breckinridge at Bennett College when Breckinridge came to give a talk. She talks about learning about the FNS and how the students assisted the organization. She talks about her perceptions of Leslie County based on Mrs. Breckinridge's speeches.

Keywords: Accidents; Attitudes; Bennett College; College students; Craft projects; Friends; Health problems; Leslie County (Ky.); Local people; Marvin Breckinridge Patterson; Mary Breckinridge; Needs; Perceptions; Public speaking

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Country life; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Rural conditions

00:04:49 - Visit to the Frontier Nursing Service

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Partial Transcript: But when I did go down I found them so friendly.

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks about her visit to Wendover and her impressions of the FNS and the local area. She talks about meeting the local people, riding horses, and accompanying the nurses when they visited patients' homes.

Keywords: British nurses; Dorothy Buck ("Bucket"); Gloria (horse); Home visits; Horseback riding; Impressions; Jeeps; Local people; Outpost centers; Outpost clinics; Relationships; World War II

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Country life; Food habits--Appalachian Region, Southern; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Horses--Transportation; Leslie County (Ky.); Nurses; Rural conditions; Transportation--Kentucky

00:11:33 - Mary Breckinridge's personality and relationships with the local people

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Partial Transcript: You had, had said earlier that whenever Mrs. Breckinridge thought someone was trying to make her appear saintly or, or look at her in a saintly manner that she would do something naughty.

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks about Mary Breckinridge's desire not to be seen as "saintly." She talks about Breckinridge having "the mind of a man," especially in regard to business. She talks about Breckinridge's early survey of the local people's needs, and how she formed her relationship with them despite their initial hesitance to use the Frontier Nursing Service.

Keywords: "Saintly"; Attitudes; Businesswoman; Discouraged; Horseback riding; Humor; Local people; Mary Breckinridge; Mortality rates; Mothers; Naughty; Patients; Personality; Relationships; Surveys; Tragedy; Wendover (Ky.); Whiskey

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

00:19:21 - More on her visit to the Frontier Nursing Service

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Partial Transcript: And I remember the f--you want me to just wander on--

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks more about her visit to the FNS, and her journey to Wendover. She talks about the nickname Mrs. Breckinridge called her, and Breckinridge's interest in reading.

Keywords: Bennett College; Eyesight; Journeys; Literature; Mary Breckinridge; Nicknames; Reading; Visiting; Wendover (Ky.); Writing

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

00:24:17 - Mary Breckinridge's personal life

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Partial Transcript: How long had you known her before she told you about her children? And, and specifically about Breckie?

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks about what she knew of Mrs. Breckinridge's two marriages and her children. She talks about the short stories Breckinridge wrote about her husbands and her son.

Keywords: "Breckie" (book); "Organdie and Mull" (book); Bennett College; Clifford Breckinridge Thompson ("Breckie"); Death; Henry Ruffner Morrison; Husbands; Meeting; Relationships; Richard Ryan Thompson; Short stories; Writing

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Children; Families.; Marriage

00:30:37 - Mary Breckinridge's belief in psychics and mediums

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Partial Transcript: But she told me quite a lot about Breckie and Breckie's death.

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks about the grief Mary Breckinridge felt after the death of her children, and talks about how Breckinridge came to be acquainted with a psychic who assisted her in talking to her son Breckie. She talks about how Breckinridge's grief was also lessened by her nursing work during the flu epidemic. She talks about Breckinridge's relationship with a nun in England, Sister Adeline, and how this relationship replaced her use of psychics to communicate with her son. Gage talks about feeling Breckinridge's presence at Wendover after her death.

Keywords: "Baby Margaret"; Agnes Lewis; Automatic writing; Communication; Contact; Death; England; Grief; Holy Ghost; Influenza epidemics; Mary Breckinridge; Mediums; Midwifery training; Nursing; Polly Breckinridge; Presence; Seances; Sister Adeline; Spirits

Subjects: Apparitions.; Bereavement.; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Children; Psychics.; Religion; Spiritualism.; Visions.

00:51:58 - Mary Breckinridge's religious beliefs and relationship with Sister Adeline

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Partial Transcript: Yes, Mary went on from her psychic things, uh, to her religious things, which she got from Sister Adeline.

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks more about Mary Breckinridge's relationship with the nun in England, Sister Adeline. She talks about how the two women met, and tells a story about Sister Adeline taking away Breckinridge's pain over her son's death. She talks about how Sister Adeline assisted Breckinridge when she broke her back, and talks about Breckinridge's vision of her nephew after his death.

Keywords: Broken back; Chapels; Church of England; Churches; Clergy; Clifford Breckinridge Thompson ("Breckie"); Contact; Death; Episcopal Church; Grief; Helen Browne ("Brownie"); Help; Influence; Letters; Mary Breckinridge; Maud Cashmore; Nephews; Pain; Personality; Prayers; Presence; Relationships; Sister Adeline; Solitary nuns; Support; Visions

Subjects: Apparitions.; Bereavement.; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Church; Religion; Spiritualism.; Visions.

01:09:45 - Mary Breckinridge's death

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Partial Transcript: Uh, who all was present at, at Wendover when Mrs. Breckinridge died?

Segment Synopsis: Gage was one of the people at Wendover the day Mary Breckinridge passed away. She talks about her death, and about the burning of some of Breckinridge's personal effects after her death. She talks more about Breckinridge's family, including her parents, husbands, and children.

Keywords: Agnes Lewis; Betty Lester; Brothers; Burning; Clifford Breckinridge Thompson ("Breckie"); Clifton Rodes Breckinridge; Clothes; Diaries; Dr. Beasley; Family; Fathers; Fires; Frontier Nursing Service Quarterly Bulletins; Helen Browne ("Brownie"); Husbands; Lucille Hodges; Marriage; Mary Breckinridge; Mothers; Parents; Personal property; Richard Ryan Thompson; Russia; Visiting

Subjects: Breckinridge family; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Children; Death.; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.

01:20:54 - Mary Breckinridge's aspirations

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Partial Transcript: W, was there anything that, that you're aware of that she wanted to do that she was never able to do?

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks about some of Mary Breckinridge's goals that were not achieved. She talks about Breckinridge being asked to run for Senate, and her desire to be an explorer. She talks about Breckinridge's leadership of the FNS during and after writing "Wide Neighborhoods."

Keywords: "Wide Neighborhoods"; Accomplishments; Arguments; Associate directors; Board of Governors; Dreams; Duties; Expansion; Explorers; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Goals; Helen Browne ("Brownie"); Leadership; Responsibilities; Senate

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Medical centers--Administration; Politics and government

01:25:32 - Mary Breckinridge's relationships with the staff and local people

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Partial Transcript: W, were there any, uh, difficulties or problems at the Frontier Nursing Service that she was concerned about that she discussed with you?

Segment Synopsis: Gage says that Breckinridge would often tell her about problems she was having with staff members, and discusses the staff's morale. She talks about the local people idolizing Mary Breckinridge.

Keywords: "Sainthood"; "Saintly"; Jokes; Local people; Morale; Outsiders; Problems; Roles; Staff

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Nurses

01:28:58 - Becoming a member of the Board of Trustees

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Partial Transcript: ----?? There was something I was going to tell you about but I can't remember what it was.

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks about Mary Breckinridge persuading her to become a member of the Frontier Nursing Service Board of Trustees. She talks about visiting with Breckinridge when she was traveling to other cities.

Keywords: Board of Trustees members; Cosmopolitan Club; Daughters of Colonial Wars; Massachusetts General Hospital (Mass Gen); Meetings; Public speaking; Sherry; Surgery; Visiting

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Friendship.; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.

01:33:52 - More on Mary Breckinridge's religious beliefs / problems between the Frontier Nursing Service and the local people

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Partial Transcript: Is there, there anything else that, that we haven't talked about that, that you'd like to mention?

Segment Synopsis: Gage talks about the chapel at Wendover and about Mary Breckinridge's religious beliefs. She talks about some of the local people's criticisms of the FNS, and their role on the committees. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: "Evensong"; Chapels; Committees; Devotionals; Influence; Involvement; Local people; Men; Participation; Personality; Problems; Staff

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Religion