Women should be welcomed as leaders in Appalachian Transition movement

The Lexington Herald-Leader used their editorial space on Christmas to honor Mary Breckinridge, founder of the Frontier Nursing Service in Hyden, Ky. (Herald-Leader photo)

The FNS and its nurse-midwives “deliver[ed] prenatal care, babies, inoculations and advice about sanitation and healthful living,” to Appalachian communities in eastern Kentucky for decades. The FNS became Frontier Nursing University, and now trains nurse-wives from across the world. The FNS and its midwives delivered thousands of Appalachian babies, but their impact on the region is immeasurable. 

And it’s all thanks to Mary Breckinridge, who came into the region and helped the people, who needed attention – not just of the medical variety, but of the human kind, too.

The editorial comes just days after the Daily Yonder profiled a new biography about Eula Hall, another of Appalachia’s fearless health crusaders. Hall started the Mud Creek Clinic in Floyd County in 1973 and, like Breckinridge before her, knew that one of the most vital keys to a brighter future for Appalachians was good health.

Breckinridge and Hall represent the strong and rich history of women leaders in Appalachia. For every Breckinridge and Hall, there are countless other Appalachian women who have led or are leading families, healthcare initiatives, their communities and social change in the region. This legacy cannot and should not be forgotten as Appalachia transitions into a brighter future.

The region has relied on women to lead its people throughout the decades. There’s no reason women can not help lead us home into a brighter future.