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Saving Stories: Frontier Nursing Service holds special place in Kentucky and US history

Kentucky Tourism

WUKY's award winning history program, Saving Stories; featuring interviews from the Nunn Center for Oral History in the UK Libraries, commemorates International Nurses' Day with a story about the Frontier Nursing Service which introduced the first nurse-midwives to the United States. Founded in Leslie County by Mary Breckinridge, the nurses of the FNS would travel by horse to some of the most inaccessible regions of Eastern Kentucky. Betty Lester, a recruit from Great Britain shares her memories of her first day in the mountains.

Betty Lester gives some background of the Breckinridges and of Mary Breckinridge's immediate family. She also indicates the personal circumstances that led to the establishment of the FNS. Lester mentions the high maternal mortality rate in Leslie County before the FNS arrived. She talks about Breckinridge's experiences in Scotland and France as well as the building of Wendover and the small hospital. Lester goes into details of how services were set up and the nurses established in district centers. She explains her own training in London, England and some of her personal experiences in the FNS area. Also discussed is the Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery, begun during World War Two.


The Nunn center has an extensive oral history collection on the Frontier Nursing Service.


Alan Lytle has more than 25 years of experience as a Kentucky broadcaster. Over that span he has earned multiple awards for anchoring, writing and producing news & features for WUKY. He took home the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Best Radio Anchor award in 2021.