Maude E. Callen Clinic and Historical Marker
Backstory and Context
"Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."
- Maude E. Callen
Maude Evelyn Callen, also known as the "Angel in Twilight", was born in Quincy, Florida, in 1898. After becoming orphaned at the age of six, she was taken in by her uncle, Dr. William J. Gunn, Tallahassee's first black physician. During her time with Gunn, she found what would become a lifelong passion for caring for others. She eventually attended Florida A&M University before going to earn a nursing degree from the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. In 1921, she married William Dewer Callen. The couple moved to Pineville, South Carolina, two years after they wed so Callen could serve as a medical missionary for the Episcopal Church there.
Upon her arrival in Pineville, Callen noticed the desperate need the rural city's population had for healthcare. At the time, Pineville, South Carolina, was extremely rural, and mostly poor, with several African American's who had previously been enslaved left without access to basic services, such as medical care, after the Civil War. In response to this need, Callen started a midwife practice, which she ran from her home for thirteen years. At the time, she was one of only nine professionally-trained nurse-midwives in the state. Although she was not technically a general practitioner of medicine, Callen's training as a nurse and medical expertise allowed her to tend to the needs of her community in ways that far surpass what we usually think of as the routine duties of a nurse. In 1936, Callen joined Berkeley County's Health Department as a public health nurse. During her time with the health department, she provided vaccinations and examinations, kept records for the department, and trained midwives. Along with her healthcare duties, Callen also taught numerous children how to read and write, held vaccination clinics in local schools, distributed clothing and supplies to those in need, and started Berkeley County's first STI clinic. As many people did not have access to transportation in Pineville, Callen would often walk miles through woods and creeks to serve her patients.
In 1951, Life magazine published a twelve-page photo essay about Maude Callen's revolutionary work in Pineville, shot by the award-winning photographer W. Eugene Smith. These photos showed the difficult, trying moments of Callen's profession, and how Callen's care and expertise transformed healthcare in the rural setting of Pineville. In the article, photojournalist Eugene Smith described her as "the most fulfilled person I have ever known." Nurse Callen received more than $20,000 in contributions due to this article, which she used to open her own health clinic in Pineville. After running the clinic for many years and continuing to serve Pineville residents, Callen retired in 1971. Even during her retirement, she continued to serve her community as manager of the Senior Citizen Nutrition Council in Pineville and delivered Meals on Wheels five days a week.
Maude Callen passed away in 1990, at the age of 92. Over her lifetime, it is estimated that she delivered 600-800 babies, trained 400 midwives, and brought healthcare to thousands. She won numerous awards for her dedication to providing healthcare to those who needed it, including the Order of the Palmetto award (1981), an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Clemson University (1983), the Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award (1984), and the Jefferson Award for Public Service (1984), among others. On November 8th, 2017, a historical marker was unveiled in Maude Callen's honor in front of her former clinic's building. Today, the former clinic sits in disrepair; however, the Sumpter Clinic's Friends of Maude Callen nonprofit organization is set to work to preserve and stabilize the structure.
"'Angel in Twilight" Maude Callen -- Nurse-Midwife." Youtube, uploaded by SouthCarolinaETV, 15 July 2013, https://youtu.be/jZnveOj57F0.
"Maude Callen Clinic." SC Picture Project, https://www.scpictureproject.org/berkeley-county/maude-callen-clinic.html. Accessed 13 April 2020.