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Friday at Frontier Nursing Service


  • Anna May January

Sarah E. Abrams, Ph.D., R.N., is Associate Professor, Department of Nursing, University of Vermont, 106 Carrigan Drive, Burlington, VT 05405. E-mail:


ABSTRACT The Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) was founded in 1925 in eastern Kentucky by Mary Breckinridge, a nurse whose interest in improving rural health and midwifery changed the course of rural public health nursing and improved health outcomes for some of the most isolated and poorest people in 20th century America. The visual image of Breckinridge on horseback visiting her scattered rural patients is imprinted on the minds of most public health nurses in the United States and has, perhaps, been the wellspring of many nursing career aspirations. The daily life of FNS nurses was one of hardship, uncertainty and variey, as is evidenced in this tale of one day; nonetheless, the experiment of a rural nursing service combining midwifery and generalized nursing was ultimately a tremendous success. The following historical reprint recounts a singular day in the life of Anna January, a nurse midwife at the FNS in Confluence, Kentucky. She captures the dialect and earthiness of the region and the period in her story, but the events she relates also illustrate how interconnected life events can be in rural communities. The original article appeared in the December 1948 issue of Public Health Nursing [Volume 40 (12), 601–602].