The City Magazine Since 1975

Beacon of Hope

Beacon of Hope
October 2019
WRITER: 




Nurse midwife Maude Callen examines a pregnant woman

When a 25-year-old Florida woman with a degree in nursing from Savannah Infirmary and midwife training at the Tuskegee School arrived in the Lowcountry in 1932, she was the only black registered nurse in all of rural Berkeley County. Maude Callen, or “Miss Maude” as she was affectionately called, became a beacon of hope and healing to countless many.

In the following 50 or so years, Callen traveled hundreds of thousands of miles within the county, vaccinating children, opening clinics, teaching nutrition, tending to those who could not afford to see doctors, and delivering more than 1,000 babies. She created a midwife education program, emphasizing science over folklore.

In 1951, Life magazine published a 12-page photo essay of Callen by noted photographer W. Eugene Smith, bringing national attention to her tireless work, compassion, and dedication to her community. Three decades later, CBS profiled Callen, who by then was no longer delivering babies but was serving the elderly in a senior center that offered hundreds of meals weekly.

Nurse Maude Callen examines young children in Berkeley County, where she provided health care for about 50 years.

Callen received numerous honorary degrees, was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame, and continued working until her death in 1990.

She will be recognized again this month—when Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital opens its doors, bringing state-of-the-art health care, including a birthing center, to Berkeley County, it will be on Callen Boulevard.

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Photographs Courtesy of The U.S. National Library of Medicine