Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Wilma Duvall Whittlesey, November 30, 1979

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:08 - Introduction / coming to work at the Frontier Nursing Service

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Partial Transcript: This is an unrehearsed interview with Mrs. Wilma Duvall Whittlesey for the Frontier Nursing Service Oral History Project by Dale Deaton at approximately 10:00AM on November 30th, 1979, at Tigard, Oregon.

Segment Synopsis: Wilma Whittlesey is introduced. She discusses how she learned about the FNS and how she began working there. She discusses her relationship with Mary Breckinridge.

Keywords: Admiration; Adventure; Clothes; Compatibility; Correspondence; F.N.S.; FNS; Freedom; Influences; Jobs; Learning; Local color; Renaissance woman; Secretaries; Students; Teaching; Trust; Working; Writing letters

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Hyden (Ky.); Leslie County (Ky.)

00:07:41 - Duties as the secretary to the director / FNS committees

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Partial Transcript: N--what was your official title while you were [inaudible]?

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey describes her duties as Mary Breckinridge's secretary. She talks about the Frontier Nursing Service committees and the people that made donations to the organization.

Keywords: Administrative; Agnes Lewis; Committee members; Committees; Correspondence; Couriers; Donations; Duties; Endowments; Entertaining; F.N.S.; FNS; Friends; Funds; Great Depression; Help; Humor; Jobs; Life Magazine; Media; Money; New York Times; Nurse-midwives; Responsibilities; Secretaries; Social connections; Social events; Speaking; Speeches; Travelling; Visiting; Work

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.

00:17:12 - Mary Breckinridge

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Partial Transcript: Her father was at Wendover when you--

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey discusses Mary Breckinridge and her relationship with her father, Clifton Rodes Breckinridge. She talks about whether Mary Breckinridge ever mentioned her children.

Keywords: Agnes Lewis; Ambassadors; Children; Clifton Rodes Breckinridge; Diplomatic; Disagreements; F.N.S.; FNS; Fathers; Frail; Grudges; Open-minded; Personality; Relationships; Shortcomings

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

00:21:04 - Mary Breckinridge's correspondence with a psychic

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Partial Transcript: This was a--a--the--the period of time that you were there, well, it would have been during the years that she was uh--uh--in--in association with a psychic in New York who--who--uh she communicated with Breckie through.

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey discusses Mary Breckinridge's correspondence with a psychic. She questions the potential publication of the letters.

Keywords: Access; Accidents; Advice; Children; Correspondence; Death; Journals; Margaret Gage; Mediums; Periodicals; Psychics; Publishing; Research; Sister Adeline; Spiritual; Supernatural experiences; Writing letters

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

00:32:42 - Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: In--in '29 and '30, shortly after you arrived, is when the stock market crash occurred.

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey discusses the effects of the Great Depression and the stock market crash on the local area. She talks about Mary Breckinridge's willingness to work with other agencies to help the local people.

Keywords: Building roads; Community; Cooperation; Dependence; Donations; Efforts; F.N.S.; FNS; Inaccessible; Local area; Local economy; Problems; W.P.A.; WPA

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Stock Market Crash, 1929; United States. Works Progress Administration.

00:36:03 - Local people

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Partial Transcript: Who were some of the local people that--uh--that Mrs. Breckinridge dealt with a great deal?

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey mentions some of the local people, including some who worked at Wendover for the FNS. She talks about Mary Breckinridge's interactions and relationships with the local people.

Keywords: Christmas trees; F.N.S.; FNS; Hard-working; Hyden Committee; Involvement; Isolation; Kissing cousins; Meetings; Parties; Relationships; Responsibilities; Social activities; Social life and customs; Socializing; Square dances; Supplies; Visiting; Wendover

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

00:42:24 - Local resistance to outside help from government programs and the Frontier Nursing Service

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Partial Transcript: With the WPA program and the--the federal government seed program that was started during the Depression, Miss Agnes Lewis told me that--uh--when those programs first became available, assistance from the Red Cross, the WPA, and the--and then the PWA and the seed programs and all that, that Mrs. Breckinridge was very much in support of all of them.

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey discusses the attitudes of the local people towards outside help from the government during the Great Depression. She talks about the local people's initial hesitation to make use of the FNS services.

Keywords: Acceptance; Bureaucratic; Control; F.N.S.; FNS; Government relief programs; Independence; Infant mortality; Isolation; Opposition; Outsiders; P.W.A.; PWA; Patients; Public Works Administration; Records; Reluctance; Services; Statistics; Support; Trust; W.P.A.; WPA

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Midwives; Red Cross; United States. Works Progress Administration.

00:48:07 - Midwifery school / survey of the Ozark Mountains

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Partial Transcript: --discuss the--the efforts to get a midwifery school begun while you were there.

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey discusses Mary Breckinridge's desire to begin a midwifery school in America. She talks about a trip she took with two Frontier Nursing Service nurses to survey the Ozark Mountains to determine interest in expanding the FNS.

Keywords: Agnes Lewis; Cars; Collecting information; Economic status; Education; Eureka Springs (Ar.); F.N.S.; FNS; Funds; Gathering information; Gladys Peacock; Great Depression; Harry French Knight; Husbands; Mary Willeford; Needs; Ozark Mountains; Sponsors; Surveys; Training

Subjects: Arkansas; Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Depressions--1929; Families.; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing; Missouri

00:56:38 - Socializing and relaxing at Wendover

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Partial Transcript: Well--I--I've been told that Mrs. Breckinridge had said that you were her best secretary.

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey talks more about working for Mary Breckinridge. She discusses the social life at Wendover and what the staff did to relax during their time off.

Keywords: Banks; Books; Bridge; Cards; Compatibility; Electricity; Errands; F.N.S.; FNS; Families; Fun; Games; General stores; Horseback riding; Hospitals; Opportunities; Radios; Reading; Recreation; Rounds; Secretaries; Social activities; Social life and customs; Socializing; TV; Televisions; Towns; Travelling; Trips; Visitors; Wendover

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Hyden (Ky.)

01:02:24 - FNS cooperation with other organizations and local doctors / overall impressions of the FNS

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember Miss Jean Tolk and Miss Zilpha Roberts? Miss Ruth Huston? Any of those people?

Segment Synopsis: Whittlesey discusses whether the FNS cooperated with other local organizations and doctors. She gives her overall impressions of the Frontier Nursing Service. She talks about Mary Breckinridge's preparation for the future. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Accidents; Christmas Eve; Clinics; Cooperation; Criticism; Doctors; Dr. Cooser; Drug stores; F.N.S.; FNS; Future; Immunizations; Impressions; Inoculations; Isolation; Jean Tolk; Medical directors; Opinions; Outpost centers; Partnerships; Patients; Pharmacies; Presbyterian schools; Relationships; Ruth Huston; Schools; Shots; Support; Treatment; Vaccinations; Wendover; Zi

Subjects: Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965; Families.; Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.; Lexington (Ky.).; Physicians--Kentucky