Lydia Holman

Lydia Holman came to the mountains of North Carolina in 1900 to provide private duty care for a wealthy woman, who was very ill with typhus at her vacation home in Mitchell County (Hawkins, 1998). Holman looked around and saw many people suffering from blindness, deafness, orthopedic deformities, premature deaths and illnesses that could be prevented and she realized she had to do something about these conditions. Traveling on horseback over tortuous mountain roads, up stream beds and over the high mountains, she delivered hundreds of babies, performed minor surgery and dentistry, immunized folks against typhoid and fought epidemics of tuberculosis, pellagra, smallpox and measles. This “wiry little woman” spent 58 years caring for rural, Appalachian families in and around Mitchell, Yancey and Avery Counties (Rosner, 1924). The range of Holman’s accomplishments is staggering. She was a nurse, midwife, health educator, dentist, social worker and sometimes physician for hundreds of people in a sixty mile area. Despite improving the health and well being of hundreds of people over three generations, she is buried in an inconspicuous grave and her story is virtually unknown (Pollitt, 1991).

Reprinted with permission from Nursing Outlook.
Pollitt, P.A. (1991). Lydia Holman: Community health pioneer. Nursing Outlook, 39(5), 230-232.