The Women Behind the Japanese Woodblock Print Collection

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By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist

One of UCSF Archives & Special Collections’ most famous and beloved collections is the Japanese Woodblock Print collection – a collection of over 400 colorful and informative woodblock prints on health-related themes, such as women’s health and contagious diseases like cholera, measles, and smallpox. According to the Library website dedicated to the prints, they “offer a visual account of Japanese medical knowledge in the late Edo and Meiji periods. The majority of the prints date to the mid-late nineteenth century, when Japan was opening to the West after almost two hundred and fifty years of self-imposed isolation.”[1] The collection has been used, most recently, in a documentary about woodblock prints to be aired on NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting network, and has been a subject of enduring interest to researchers. I’ve heard colleagues wonder aloud about how UCSF came to own this unique collection, so I did some research. Naturally, an enterprising curator and librarian – Atsumi Minami, MLS – is to thank for the collection’s arrival at UCSF.

Walters, Tom F., “Atsumi Minami with items from UCSF Library East Asian Collection,” 1968. UCSF History Collection.

While I was not able to find the exact dates of her employment at UCSF Library, I do know that Minami began working at UCSF Library in 1959, and soon took charge of a small collection of 70 titles of materials related to East Asian medicine started in 1963 by John B. de C.M. Saunders (a shortening of his full name, John Bertrand de Cusance Morant Saunders), then Provost and University Librarian.[1] Minami could read Japanese script, so she became responsible for the collection and was soon given free rein to begin collecting additional materials. In order to do this, Minami “traveled to Japan and China and purchased items from various smaller, private collections, acquiring the woodblock prints as well as hundreds of rare Chinese and Japanese medical texts, manuscripts, and painted scrolls.”[2] Her collecting efforts spanned over 30 years, and produced a collection with over 10,000 titles. It would appear that Minami was still working at UCSF when this informative article was written for a 1986 issue of UCSF Magazine.[3] At the time that article was published, the East Asian medicine collection was also the only active collection of its kind in the U.S., making it even more notable.  

Another woman who was influential in shaping the East Asian collection was Ilza Veith, a German medical historian and former UCSF professor in both the Department of the History and Philosophy of Health Sciences and the Department of Psychiatry. Veith, who in 1947 was awarded the first ever U.S. Ph.D.in the History of Medicine from Johns Hopkins University, was also awarded later, in 1975, the most advanced medical degree conferred in Japan, the Igaku hakase, from Juntendo University Medical School in Tokyo.  Veith was extremely knowledgeable about both Chinese and Japanese medicine, and, in her time at Hopkins, translated Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen, or The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine – the oldest known document in Chinese medicine. Though the text has somewhat mythical origins that make its author and date a little difficult to determine, it probably dates from around 300 BC. Veith also helped shaped UCSF’s East Asian medicine collection by donating a number of her Japanese medical books. 

“Ilza Veith,” 1968. UCSF History Collection.

I would encourage anyone interested in the collection to browse the prints on our website, and to read more about their history via a finding aid on the Online Archive of California. Archives & Special Collections also houses the Ilza Veith papers. While we don’t yet have an Atsumi Minami collection, we welcome donations and would appreciate any information that the present-day UCSF community has about this amazing woman.


[1] “Glory of the Special Collections,” UCSF Magazine, V. 9, Issue #342, 1986: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31378005349033&view=1up&seq=341&q1=”Atsumi Minami”

[2] “About the Collection,” UCSF Japanese Woodblock Print Collection, 2007, https://japanesewoodblockprints.library.ucsf.edu/about.html. Accessed April 6, 2021.

[3] “Glory of the Special Collections,” UCSF Magazine, V. 9, Issue #342, 1986: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31378005349033&view=1up&seq=341&q1=”Atsumi Minami”


[1] “About the Collection,” UCSF Japanese Woodblock Print Collection, 2007, https://japanesewoodblockprints.library.ucsf.edu/about.html. Accessed April 6, 2021.

Irene Pope, Nurse and Activist

This is a guest post by Griffin Burgess, ZSFG Archivist.

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re recognizing Irene Pope, nurse and activist.

Irene Pope

Irene Pope was born in Berkeley, CA and graduated from the UCSF School of Nursing in 1947. She worked as a nurse at UC Hospital for eighteen months, then continued her education at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, earning her master’s degree. She returned to the UC as head nurse and later became the assistant director of nursing.

Irene Pope (back row, center) with her UC classmates. From Medi-Cal yearbook, 1947.

Pope came to San Francisco General Hospital in 1960 as director of nursing. She inherited an institution with constant nursing turnover and little to no high-level coordination of nursing activity. Pope transformed the nursing service into a functional, united group while also focusing on improving working conditions for nurses.

At the time, nurses at SFGH were paid very little compared to other San Francisco city workers and nurses around the country. Nurses had never gone on strike before in the U.S. and were in fact prohibited from striking, so in 1966, the SFGH nurses staged a “sickout.” All staff nurses called in sick while Pope and other head nurses kept the hospital going. The sickout lasted three days and resulted in a 40 percent pay raise for the nursing staff.

When asked about the sickout, Pope gave her full support and said, “we are interested in saving the profession, as well as seeking betterment for ourselves.”

In 1971, Pope left SFGH to serve as president-elect and then president of the California Nurses Association, where she lobbied to pass the Nurses Practice Act, paving the way for nurse practitioners. Pope spent her career working tirelessly for nurses and the nursing profession as a whole, and her efforts have created lasting change at ZSFG and beyond.

St. Joseph College of Nursing

Recently, we’ve been adding material to our digital collections on Calisphere.org. One highlight is the St. Joseph College of Nursing Collection.

Nuns gathered around an iron lung. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

The digital collection includes selected images from the St. Joseph College of Nursing papers and Alumni Association records. St. Joseph College of Nursing was established in 1921 as an affiliate of St. Joseph’s Hospital. The hospital was founded in San Francisco in 1889 by five Catholic sisters of the Order of Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Though the hospital and school closed in the late 1970s, the Alumni Association continued activity until 2015.

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Promotional cards for St. Joseph’s Hospital, San Francisco. The hospital and college buildings were located on the 300 block of Buena Vista Avenue East. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

Sister M. Frida and researchers in the Pathology Laboratory, circa 1939.  St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

The collection documents the educational activities of the school as well as the patient care and research performed by the sisters and students. Visit the digital collection to view more images or make an appointment with us to view the material in person.

Nurse with child in St. Joseph's Hospital Pediatric Ward, circa 1940-1960. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

Nurse with child in St. Joseph’s Hospital Pediatric Ward, circa 1940-1960. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

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St. Joseph’s Hospital Pharmacy, circa 1940-1960. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

Women’s History Month – Dr. Florence Nightingale Ward

Continuing our look at talented and trailblazing women, we’re highlighting the work of homeopathic physician Florence Nightingale Saltonstall Ward (1860-1919).

Illustration of Ward from San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 1895. MSS 2011-08, box 1

Illustration of Ward from the San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 1895. MSS 2011-08, box 1

Ward was a prominent San Francisco surgeon, obstetrician, and gynecologist from 1887 to her death in 1919. She dedicated her life to providing safer, more accessible medical care for women and developing techniques that made childbirth less dangerous.

Ward received medical training from a number of hospitals and schools in Europe and the United States, including California’s foremost homeopathic institution, Hahnemann Medical College of the Pacific. She later served as Professor of Obstetrics at Hahnemann and held leadership positions in local and national organizations, including becoming vice president of the American Institute of Homeopathy. In 1915, Ward became the second woman to be elected to the American College of Surgeons, an appointment that recognized her many contributions to the fields of gynecology and surgery.

Ward's diploma from the New York Polyclinic Medical School, 1888. MSS 2011-08, oversize box 1

Ward’s diploma from the New York Polyclinic Medical School, 1888. MSS 2011-08, oversize box 1

Ward built her own sanatorium exclusively for women in San Francisco between 1907 and 1910. She employed an all-female staff and provided unique career opportunities for women with professional medical training.

Invitation to Ward's sanitarium, 1910. MSS 2011-08, box 1

Invitation to Ward’s sanitarium, circa 1910. MSS 2011-08, box 1

Ward’s practice blended conventional medical techniques with homeopathic remedies and treatments. Homeopathy was developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the early 19th century. His system was based on the theory that a substance that causes certain symptoms in a healthy person will cure those symptoms in a sick person. Ward was likely drawn to homeopathy in part because the field provided more opportunities for women than conventional medical practice. For instance, homeopathy schools regularly accepted female students while medical schools routinely denied women applicants because of their gender. Homeopathic professional organizations also welcomed women’s participation. As women struggled to find a place in the American Medical Association, Ward and other women helped lead the American Institute of Homeopathy and delivered papers at major homeopathy conferences.

Ward's list of symptoms and their homeopathic treatments, ca. 1880. MSS 2011-08, vault

Ward’s list of symptoms and their homeopathic treatments, ca. 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

At UCSF, we house the Florence Nightingale Ward papers, MSS 2011-08, and a collection of rare homeopathy material. Ward’s papers include homeopathic medicine kits used by her in the late 19th century. Take a look inside one monogrammed kit below. Many of the vials contain substances still used in homeopathic remedies today!

Ward's monogrammed homeopathic medical kit, circa 1900. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

Ward’s monogrammed homeopathic medicine kit, circa 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

mss201108_upstairsvaultL6B_wardkit1

Ward’s monogrammed homeopathic medicine kit, circa 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

mss201108_upstairsvaultL6B_wardkit3

Ward’s monogrammed homeopathic medicine kit, detail, circa 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

mss201108_upstairsvaultL6B_wardkit2

Ward’s monogrammed homeopathic medicine kit, detail, circa 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

Women’s History Month: The first female graduates of UCSF

March is Women’s History Month and, in keeping with the spirit, we’d like to honor a few of the trailblazing women in UCSF’s history.

Portrait of Luzy Field Wanzer

Portrait of Lucy Field Wanzer

Lucy Field Wanzer became the first woman to graduate from UCSF, then officially known as the Medical Department of the University of California, in 1876. Lucy grew up in Wisconsin and cared for her mother who had tuberculosis during her childhood. This early and significant exposure to the field of medicine convinced Wanzer that she wanted to become a doctor. The family later moved to California, where Lucy fought for the right to realize her dream– her initial application to the University of California program was rejected based on gender. After a lengthy appeals process, she was accepted and the regents adopted a resolution stating that “young women offering themselves for admission and passing the required examination must be received to all the privileges of the Medical Department.”

Class of 1876

Medical Department of the University of California, Class of 1876

At the time, a few medical schools on the East Coast had admitted and graduated female students, but none in the West. For the fifty years following Wanzer’s graduation, female students comprised approximately 10% of UCSF medical graduates in the midst of a 4% national average.

Much more has been written about Wanzer elsewhere. For more information, check out the History of UCSF website, this article by a current School of Medicine student, or this extensive paper by a UCSF School of Medicine alumnus.

Blue and Gold, 1890, page 33

Blue and Gold, 1890, page 33

 

The next woman to breakdown gender barriers in a UCSF school was Maria Angelina Burch who graduated from the College of Dentistry in 1883. Maria grew up in nearby Pescadero, CA. Burch passed away at the age of 27, just five years after receiving her dental degree. Her obituary, on right, published in the 1890 Blue and Gold, the annual for all of the University of California, refers to Burch as the Dental Department’s ambitious and intelligent “pioneer lady graduate.” Burch established a private practice in San Francisco in 1884 which prospered quickly. She was described as “fast climbing the hill to fame and fortune” at the time of her death.

 

The Graduate, 1912, page 60

The Graduate, 1912, page 60

Following closely on Burch’s heels was Josephine Eugenia Barbat in the College of Pharmacy class of 1884. Barbat was a native San Franciscan. University records in the 1890’s show that after graduation, Josephine became an instructor of Botany within the College of Pharmacy– no doubt one of the first women to teach the subject, as well. Not quite satisfied, Barbat went on to graduate from the College of Medicine in 1903. She’s listed in the 1904 Directory of Physicians and Surgeons as having a practice at 1310 Folsom St. The 1912 issue of The Graduate, the College of Pharmacy’s annual at the time, features a photograph of Josephine as the President of W.P.A.P.C. (the Women’s Pharmaceutical Association of the Pacific Coast).

The creation of the Training School for Nurses within the University of California in 1907 also served to up the number of women in the field of medicine. Two years later, the school produced its first graduate, Lillian Cohen, pictured below in the unique white mortarboard cap and square blue and gold pin.

Lillian Cohen

Lillian Cohen, 1909

A three-year nursing degree was standard at the time in the Nursing program, and the following year the University of California graduated its first full class.

Training School for Nurses, Class of 1910

Training School for Nurses of the University of California, Class of 1910

Today, UCSF celebrates the diversity of its students, staff, and community in many different ways. In 2012, 54% of all incoming students were female. Do you have a favorite woman in UCSF history? Let us know!