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Dr. Elizabeth M. Bear collection

Identifier: AMN 1134

Collection Overview

The collection is divided into four series:

Series 1: Nurse Midwives Contains photocopied documents relating to the education and profession of African–American nurse midwives; correspondence to Dr. Bear regarding her nurse-midwifery education. Of note are photocopies, “Lessons for Midwives," issued by the South Carolina State Board of Health (revised 1970). The series also includes photocopied journal, magazine and newspaper articles along with a graduation photograph of noted nurse and nurse-midwife, Maude E. Callen.

Series 2: Penn Center Holds magazine and newspapers articles; booklets, programs, and brochures regarding the preservation of the Penn Center’s history and legacy.

Series 3: Photographic Material Contains photocopied images of photographs, with separate caption listing highlighting midwifery education at the Penn Center, as well as a photocopied photograph of midwives at Frogmore, South Carolina. Photographic images are also included on a DVD-CD.

Series 4: Various Materials Contains an Essence magazine cover (May 1974) and a magazine image of a mother and infant.


  • Creation: 1922-2006
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1941-1998


Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

The nature of the Avery Research Center's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Avery Research Center claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical/Historical note

Elizabeth M. Bear's expansive career includes work as a labor/delivery nurse (University of California Hospital); a nursing professor, specializing in maternity and pediatrics (University of Florida, Gainesville); public health nurse with education in nurse-midwifery. The University of Kentucky enlisted Bear to initiate a graduate program in Nurse-Midwifery in conjunction with the United States Army Nurse Corps at Fort Knox. After facilitating a successful program, Bear returned to school at the University of Texas, Austin to obtain a PhD in Educational Administration. Bear (then president of ACNM) was with Callen when MUSC conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Callen (1989). Dr. Bear's research on Maude led to research on the Tuskegee School of Nurse-Midwifery where the first program for certified Black nurse-midwives was developed.

In the early 20th century, scientists and doctors began to assert dominance and claim superiority over midwives. Despite this contention, midwives in the Lowcountry remained a popular choice for expecting mothers due to limited finances and an inclination towards traditional methods. Midwives often provided women extensive background knowledge and a warm, maternal energy through laborious birthing processes. Many of the Lowcountry midwives were African-American, therefore the practice was especially significant to the African-American community.

The Penn Center exists as a major historical landmark. Built in 1862 by two Northerners, its facilities were meant to educate African Americans in the Lowcountry. This included midwifery education. The Penn Center soon became a notable center on developing midwives in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Along with the Penn Center, the Tuskegee School of Nurse-Midwifery existed as an opportunity for many women (particularly African-American women) to pursue a career in nurse-midwifery. The Tuskegee School of Nurse-Midwifery opened up in 1941 in Tuskegee, Alabama with the purpose of reducing infant mortality rates (particularly in the black community). This need arose from the poverty striking the black community at the time, as well as the segregation they faced in hospitals (as well as many other public institutions). A 1943 graduate was Maude Callen, who grew to become a highly recognized woman in the field of nurse-midwifery. Her accomplishments include an appearance in Life magazine, the American Institute of Public Service Award, and providing service to a 400-square-mile-radius-area.


Canty, Lucinda. TUSKEGEE SCHOOL OF NURSE-MIDWIDERY. Blue Sky Broadcast. Tuskegee School of Nurse-Midwifery. Web. 29 July 2014.

History., ...following The Road To. Penn Center... a Link to the Past, a Bridge to the Future. (2006). Flow Of History. Penn Center. Web. 29 July 2014.


0.5 linear feet (1 archival box, 1 DVD)

Language of Materials



Elizabeth M. Bear is a Professor Emeritus and former director of the Nurse-Midwifery program at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) School of Nursing. Bear's collection is a reflection of her avid interest in the nurse-midwifery profession, notably focusing on the education of African-Americans midwives (lay and nurse-midwives).

The majority of the collection contains photocopied journal, magazine and newspaper articles, reports, correspondence, and photographs; along with original booklets, brochures, and programs focusing on the tradition of nurse-midwives in the South Carolina Lowcountry and other Southern states. Bear’s collection also includes information on noted nurse midwife, Maude Callen; the Penn Center on St. Helena Island and the Tuskegee School of Midwifery for Colored Nurses (Tuskegee Institute, Alabama) for the education of nurse midwives.

Collection Arrangement

Series 1: Nurse Midwives

Series 2: Penn Center

Series 3: Photographic Material

Series 4: Various Materials

Acquisitions Information

Collection was donated by Dr. Elizabeth M. Bear in 2008.

Processing Information

Processed by Lewam Dejen, July 2014

Edited by Aaron Spelbring, July 2014

Encoded by Aaron Spelbring, July 2014

Elizabeth M. Bear Collection AMN 1134
Finding aid prepared by Lewam Dejen
July 2014
Description rules
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Repository Details

Part of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Repository

125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States