The late Florence Booker Rawleigh claimed that working for the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) as a Courier was the most interesting thing she did in her 95 years of life. Florence was asked to serve as a Courier during a flu outbreak 1942. During the epidemic, many prominent families in the area were asked to send their children to volunteer with FNS to tend to those ill from the flu in rural and underserved Appalachia.
“They would call and say they need you desperately, ” said Florence.
Many families refused to send their daughters during this time, fearing their children may develop the flu too. But Florence’s mother countered that if the FNS needed Florence then she should go. With her mother’s blessing, Florence quit her job and traveled to rural Appalachia to serve as a Courier with FNS.
While working as a Courier, Florence had the honor of working alongside FNS Founder Mary Breckinridge. In addition to their medical assistance with FNS, Mrs. Breckinridge often entertained Couriers with stories of the adventures of her life. She told about her family and the interesting happenings of her time at and before FNS.
Mrs. Breckinridge frequently invited prominent guests over last minute for hors d’oeuvres and a chat. Florence shared about a time that very highly-regarded guests were on their way to the Big House, now known as the Wendover Bed & Breakfast and Retreat Center, but the Couriers didn’t have any food prepared.
“So we buttered dog biscuits and served them. I guess everyone thought they were ok since they didn’t say anything!” said Florence. “It was a truly privilege to know Mrs. Breckinridge!”
The most interesting guests came from all over the world to the home of Mrs. Breckinridge, and Florence felt honored to meet them. Throughout her time as a Courier, Florence made good friends, great connections, and memories that for her lasted a lifetime – all 95 years of it. Florence stated repeatedly that her Courier experience was the most interesting thing she ever did.
Before she passed, Florence loved attending Courier reunions every 4 or 5 years, organized by her dear friend Ms. Agnes Lewis.
“She would make a scavenger hunt or something and we would all get into some fun!” said Florence. “I also loved getting to know the other Couriers, as they were so all so interesting.”
Florence Booker Rawleigh passed away on May 22, 2016 at the age of ninety-five years. But that was not without leaving her legacy at Frontier Nursing University. In addition to being a Courier in the 1940s, Florence also was a proud trustee for many years and a dear friend of FNU.
Florence is dearly missed by all of us here at Frontier and goes down in Frontier Nursing University history as one of the most interesting and loyal women that we have ever known. Thank you, Florence, for your friendship with Frontier and the inspiring legacy you left behind!
At the heart of Frontier Nursing University is a talented and diverse community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, Couriers and preceptors. Spotlight blogs feature members of our FNU community that are focused on the mission of educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to deliver quality health care to underserved and rural populations.
In 1928, Mary Breckinridge, founder of Frontier Nursing University established the Courier Program, recruiting young people to come work in the Kentucky Mountains and learn about service to humanity. Couriers escorted guests safely through remote terrain, delivered medical supplies to remote outpost clinics, and helped nurse-midwives during home visits and births. Frontier has benefited tremendously from the 1,600 Couriers who have served since 1928.