Nurse-midwife Maude Callen


W. Eugene Smith, [Nurse-midwife Maude Callen examining throat glands of young boy], 1951 (1003.2005)

W. Eugene Smith, [Maude and doctor examining emaciated woman-side view], 1951 (984.2005)


W. Eugene Smith, [Maude wiping head of young boy with distended belly, older boy watching], 1951 (980.2005)

Maude Callen was a nurse and midwife who set up a small clinic from her home after graduating from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in 1923. She served the poorest people in the community of Pineville, South Carolina where she lived. In 1951 W. Eugene Smith, on assignment for Life magazine, photographed Ms. Callen and followed her for several weeks during her work at the clinic and on her rounds to see patients. The story was published in a 12-page story in Life magazine.

Smith was deeply moved by the work of Ms. Callen and her endless dedication to her patients. In his research for the story the photographer wrote:

No story could translate justly the life depth of this wonderful, patient, directional woman who is my subject — and I love her, do love her with a respect I hold for almost no one. Humble, I am in the presence of this simple, complex, positive, greatness; on end on in herself appointed rounds beyond paid-for duty.

It had been Ms. Callen’s deep wish to some day open her own clinic in a separate brick building. After the Life article was published readers donated thousands of dollars in support of her work. With the money she was able to open her own clinic.


W. Eugene Smith, [Maude gesturing, husband holding blue print, clinic under construction], 1953 (979.2005)

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About claartjevandijk

Assistant Curator, Collections at the International Center of Photography, New York
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