Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff
Series 14: Medical, Health & Hygiene
Marian Purbrick Staff

Infirmary Nurse, 1928 – 1931

TAGS: Marian Purbrick, Harriet Crutchfield, registered nurses, Oneida (KY) Hospital, Save the Children Fund of America, Ethel Zande, American Red Cross Nursing Service, public health, doctors, medical settlements, Evelyn K. Wells, Dr. Alfreda Withington

woman on horseback
Miss Purbrick at Big Laurel(?) [107_line_fork_005b2.jpg]

“Miss Purbrick, the nurse, is very English. She must be around 50 yrs. old. She is a riot, naturally funny and with quite a peppy disposition. I enjoy her immensely.”

This description from a journal written by PMSS teacher Harriet Crutchfield is one side of Marian Purbrick’s character. Another side would show her hard-working devotion to public health as a registered nurse who was already highly experienced in her field when she came to Pine Mountain Settlement School in 1928 and served there until 1931. She then went on to Oneida, Kentucky, where she helped start the Oneida Hospital. Several years later, she headed the Save the Children organization that cared for the less fortunate children in Harlan County, Kentucky. 

MARIAN PURBRICK: Applying for Work at PMSS

In December 1926, while living in Everett, Maine, Miss Purbrick was informed of the need for a nurse at Pine Mountain Settlement School by the Aznoe’s Central Registry of Nurses. In her request to the Registry for additional information, she wrote “I have heard and read a great deal of the work of the Settlement, and the spirit of it appeals to me. …

She arranged for references to be sent to Ethel Zande, PMSS Co-Director, one of which was from Clara D. Noyes, National Director of the Red Cross Nursing Service in Washington, D.C. Miss Noyes wrote that Purbrick “…is intelligent, cooperative and observant … very energetic and has a very good Public Health vision. … [She] has not only been employed by the American Red Cross as a Public Health nurse but she has also been an Instructor of our classes in Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick.” 

Even though Purbrick met with Dorothy Bolles and Evelyn K. Wells, PMSS staff, concerning her application and they reported being “favorably impressed” with her, the PMSS position had already been given to another candidate. Nevertheless, both Zande and Purbrick kept in touch pending another opening. 

In the meantime, Purbrick wrote to Zande about her credentials: She was educated and trained in London, England, and came to the United States in May of 1910 [from Eastbourne, England to Boston, MA] to do “private duty for several years.” In 1918, she took a post-graduate course at Boston’s “Simmons School for Public Health Nursing and then [a] position of head nurse of the Bristol, Tennessee, Red Cross Nursing Service [for 2 years], and was the first public health nurse in that part of the state.” Around 1920, she became Director or Superintendent of the District Nurse Association for 3 1/2 years in Derby, Connecticut. As of 1926, she was serving as the County Nurse of Whiteley, Columbia City, Indiana. Purbrick gave her permanent address as Newburyport, Massachusetts. 

Another opening did come about in the fall of 1927 and Zande offered it to Purbrick in a letter dated November 1, describing the position:

 “…[T]his part of the country is … far rougher than the country around Bristol. The school nurse at Pine Mountain lives in and manages the little Infirmary, which has eight beds in the regular wards and an isolation room for contagious cases. The family consists of two girls, pupils who do the work of the Infirmary, getting their training in housework from you, and of one of the teachers, who makes that building her home and sometimes relieves the nurse when her hours are long. … the building is heated by a furnace. There is an oil stove in the little kitchen, a bath-tub and running hot water. The nurse has regular hours at the school house, and teaches a class in hygiene. … The school doctor spends one day a week at the school, examining children. There are hookworm treatments, visits from doctors who refract eyes or examine for trachoma, a tonsils clinic this month, etc., besides the general care of the school’s health. … Our medical settlement, four miles away, where the doctor and another nurse live, does most of the district work, and we consider the building up of our children and the health of the school, the school nurse’s first duty.” 

Her salary would be $100 a month plus maintenance, with a month’s vacation with pay after 11 months’ service.

Again, Purbrick had to delay her arrival at Pine Mountain. Supervisors from her current position asked her to reconsider her decision to leave, due to the many very ill people in their institution. She decided not to change jobs yet and asked Zande to keep her in mind for a future nursing position.

MARIAN PURBRICK Staff: At Pine Mountain

Within several months after postponing Zande’s offer, however, Miss Purbrick was finally hired as an Infirmary nurse by Pine Mountain Settlement School as indicated by correspondence between Purbrick and the PMSS staff, dated July 1928 – 1931. 

Purbrick’s work was certainly as active and challenging as Mrs. Zande had described in her earlier letter. Harriet Crutchfield wrote the following in her journal, a compilation of her letters dated 1928-1930:

“The poor woman is kept trotting continually, for there seems to be an unending series of real accidents in addition to the regular steady number of boils, bites, cuts, colds, etc. I told you about the boy who was stabbed in the groin. Then one was bitten by a copperhead and a woman just a ways down the road was badly burned a few days ago. In addition to nursing & doctoring, Miss P. teaches a couple of classes in hygiene and directs a health squad of the boys & girls, which is quite fine.

In her history of health care at the School from 1914 through 1928, Evelyn K. Wells wrote that “[t]he nearest approach to a major operation at Pine Mountain was in 1928 when Dr. Todd came from Lynch and removed liquid from Miss Gallagher’s lungs thereby saving her life in pneumonia. Miss Purbrick and Alice Turner will not soon forget that midnight affair.”

In addition to her Infirmary duties, Miss Purbrick was sometimes called into service at either of PMSS’s two medical satellite operations, Line Fork Settlement and Medical Settlement Big Laurel. In 1928, Miss Wells arranged for Miss Purbrick to spend the summer at Big Laurel, looking after things while Dr. Alfreda Withington was on vacation. In addition, as explained by Wells, “Dr. Withington has an arrangement with the lumber camp about seven miles from Big Laurel, whereby she goes there twice a week as camp doctor, and she cannot leave them unprovided for. Miss Purbrick can go until she leaves [Big Laurel] …”

On November 1, 1931, Marian Purbrick wrote a letter to then-Director Glyn Morris, notifying him of her resignation on January 1, 1932, due to “a larger opportunity in mountain work.”

MARIAN PURBRICK Staff: After Pine Mountain

During the time that Miss Purbrick was a nurse at Pine Mountain’s Infirmary, Dr. Ida S. Stapleton was serving as the medical doctor and co-administrator at Pine Mountain’s medical extension, Line Fork Settlement. Her February 1932 report reveals the location of Marian Purbrick’s “larger opportunity in mountain work.” She wrote:

“I had such an interesting adventure the first week in January and here is how it came about. Miss Purbrick, who had been the nurse at the Pine Mt. Settlement School Infirmary for four years, was invited to take charge of a new hospital for the community of Oneida, Clay County of this State. The hospital was finished after years of work and prayer by a Dr. McConville of Brooklyn, N Y who had sensed the great need of a hospital in the rural village of Oneida. I thought that I would like to see it and maybe help arrange the beds and furniture for two or three days.

Later I heard from Miss Purbrick that furniture was on the way and she was using her time to call on the people of the village and becoming acquainted. They were so eager and happy that the hospital was soon to be opened. As I left I felt so proud of the little nurse who had the courage to undertake the opening of that work.”

By 1934, Miss Purbrick was involved with Save the Children Fund of America, serving as the director of child health work for one of the organization’s centers located in Harlan County, Kentucky.

Besides using her nursing skills in the organization’s work to provide aid to disadvantaged children, she also wrote articles (SEE: images of the Save the Children fundraising publications on MARIAN PURBRICK CORRESPONDENCE II), and gave talks on the work of the organization.

According to the Nursing Maine website, Marian Purbrick of Saco, Maine, was granted a Registered Nurse license to practice in Maine on April 22, 1938. The license expired on January 1, 1953.

The Biddeford [Maine] Daily Journal of September 22, 1938 (page 2), reported that “Miss Marian Purbrick, York county health nurse, of Saco, … delivered a talk on health and told of some of her experiences while working among tubercular patients in the Kentucky mountains.”

Miss Marian Purbrick was born in England in 1883 and died on October 21, 1961, in Sanford, Maine.

See Also:
MARIAN PURBRICK Correspondence I – 1926 – 1931
MARIAN PURBRICK Correspondence II – 1932 – 1948



Marian Purbrick

Alt. Title

Purbrick, Marian ; Miss Purbrick ; 




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Marian Purbrick ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Harriet Crutchfield ; registered nurses ; Oneida (KY) Hospital ; Save the Children Fund of America ; Aznoe’s Central Registry of Nurses ; Ethel Zande ; American Red Cross Nursing Service ; public health ; Simmons School for public Health Nursing ; doctors ; medical settlements ; Evelyn K. Wells ; Dr. Alfreda Withington ; Nursing Maine ;

Subject LCSH

Purbrick, Marian, — 1883 -1961
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.


2020-12-25 aae


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet.


Series 09: Biography – Staff
Series 14: Medical, Health & Hygiene




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Biography – Staff and Series 14: Medical, Health & Hygiene.

Coverage Temporal

1883 – 1961

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Oneida, KY ; Everett, ME ; Washington, DC ; London, England ; Boston, MA ; Bristol, TN ; Derby, CT ; Columbia City, Whiteley, IN ; Newburyport, MA ; Brooklyn, NY ; Sanford, ME ; Biddeford, ME ; Saco, ME ; 


Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Marian Purbrick ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Marian Purbrick ;




“[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated




Biddeford [Maine] Daily Journal, September 22, 1938 (page 2) and October 23, 1961 (page 2).  (accessed 12-21-2020). Internet resource.

”Marian Purbrick.” Series 09: Biography – Staff and Series 14: Medical, Health & Hygiene. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

Nursing Maine website, (accessed 12-21-2020). Internet resource.

From RG: 21. Petitions and Records of Naturalization; Country of origin: England Year of immigration: 1910; National Archives Identifier: 59550874 
Creator: U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. 1789- .

Work to Aid Children of Miners Told: Efforts in Harlan County Kentucky, Described by Worker There for Save the Children Fund.” Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, August 31, 1934, page 22.…34684065/hartford-courant (accessed 12-21-2020). Internet resource.

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