Celebrating National Nurses Week and Florence Nightingale, handwashing innovator

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By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist

Although, in 2020, advice like “wash your hands” and “cover your mouth when you cough” seem fairly obvious and common sense, there was a time when this was not the case. That time was March 1855, when the situation in British hospitals outside of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) during the Crimean War had become so dire that Florence Nightingale and 40 other women acting as trained volunteer nurses were finally allowed access to patients (they had previously been denied access because of their gender). Hospitals were overcrowded and extremely unsanitary conditions encouraged the spread of infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid, typhus and dysentery, which Nightingale recognized immediately. She implemented basic cleanliness measures, such as baths for patients, clean facilities, and fresh linens, and advocated for an approach that addressed the psychological and emotional, as well as the physical, needs of patients. Her improvements brought a dramatic decline in the mortality rate at these hospitals, which had previously been as high as 40%.

While Nightingale is well known as one of the world’s first nurses, she is less well known for her strikingly lovely data visualizations (including pie charts and a rose-shaped design called the “coxcomb”), which she used to highlight the number of deaths from diseases, in addition to deaths from wounds or injury, during the Crimean War. Nightingale, a mathematician and statistician, recognized the importance of eye-catching visuals in communicating the impact of her innovations.

National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th (National Nurses Day) and ends each year on May 12th (Florence Nightingale’s birthday). Today, we celebrate the history of nursing and nurses of all kinds, and the essential, life-saving work that they perform. We hope you enjoy this series of digital images from UCSF’s Archives & Special Collections, all digitized and available online through Calisphere. Archives & Special Collections also holds the fascinating Florence Nightingale Memorial Collection, created by Country Joe McDonald of Country Joe & the Fish, which you can read more about here.

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.

Country Joe McDonald’s Florence Nightingale collection will be preserved in UCSF Archives

Country Joe McDonald, singer, songwriter, and social advocate, co-founder of the Country Joe & the Fish rock band remembered for his performance in Woodstock, recently donated his Florence Nightingale collection to the UCSF archives. This International Nurses Day, May 12th, we asked Joe several questions about his unusual archive that contains 7 oversize boxes of printed materials, ephemera, and books as well as a website “Country Joe McDonald’s Tribute to Florence Nightingale.”

Country Joe McDonald performs a tribute to Florence Nightingale at UCSF in the fall of 2013 (photo by Elisabeth Fall)

Country Joe McDonald performs a tribute to Florence Nightingale at UCSF in the fall of 2013 (photo by Elisabeth Fall)

1. What got you interested in the life of Florence Nightingale?

I heard Lynda Van Devanter, an Army Vietnam War nurse speak in 1981 at a symposium on the problems of Vietnam veterans. She challenged other veterans, saying we ignored the needs and service of women in the military. I took it to heart and promised her I would write a song for her. But I knew nothing of nursing except the name Florence Nightingale. I looked in the encyclopedia and it said Florence Nightingale had gone to nurse English soldiers at the request of the English government during the Crimean War in 1854. That she was an upper class woman and she suffered a nervous disorder for the rest of her life. Vietnam veterans were suffering from PTSD as a result of their experiences. I found this similarity  very interesting and wanted to know more. I went to a well known used book store in Oakland and found two books on her life. One was Sir Edward Cook’s book. The other, Cecil Woodham-Smith’s book. I read them both. And that was the beginning of my journey.

2.       For how long have you been documenting her story?

It was 1981 when I first heard Lynda speak, so it is over thirty years.

A glass "magic lantern" slide of the painting by Jerry Barrett, “The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale Receiving the Wounded at Scutari” (National Portrait Gallery, London). A photo of a black-and-white engraving has been hand-colored. Read more about this painting on the Country Joe McDonald website.

A glass “magic lantern” slide (reversed) of the painting by Jerry Barrett, “the Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale Receiving the Wounded at Scutari” (National Portrait Gallery, London). A photo of a black-and-white engraving has been hand-colored. Read more about this painting on the Country Joe McDonald’s website.

3.       How do you select materials to add to your collection?

At first it was not a collection. But I needed to learn about England and the Victorian Era in order to understand what I was reading.  So one thing led to another. Then I decided to visit the places important to her life. Wherever I went I would pick up stuff about the place I visited and her. She was such a huge social phenomena, such a famous person after the war, that lots of stuff was created about her and using her name. Since she was a recluse lots of it was just made up to satisfy the desire of the public to have a bit of her. She was famous on the level of Kim Kardashian or Princess Kate. I found this very interesting. So there was stuff that was intelligent and accurate and stuff that was pure fantasy and frivolous.
I tried to get it all. I trolled Amazon and Internet book sites grabbing whatever I found that was not too expensive. Since I had a web person who was building my professional home page for me I decided to create a home page for her.  Using the facts and stuff I found out about her. We started with a time line of her life. It just grew and grew. It seemed to me to be endlessly interesting. I was amazed at the diversity of her life and nursing. I found it very hard to stop adding things.

4.   What is your favorite item in this collection?

It is difficult to pick one item. But I will mention a copy I made of many of the pages of her third edition of Notes On Hospitals. I got an original through interlibrary loan from a library in Pasadena. Such a thing could never happen today. There are three editions of Notes On Hospitals. I have a facsimile of the original which is part of the collection. But the one always mentioned in writings about her is the third edition.

Much to my amazement the copy I got from inter library loan had a signature of Adelaide Nutting the famous nurse historian on the cover page. I felt like an archaeologist making a discovery. I guess the copy the library had once belonged to Adelaide Nutting. I probably could have just kept the copy and no one would have cared much. Such is the treatment Florence Nightingale is often given. She even predicted this. When the Edison Company recorded her voice she said that “some day when I am no longer a memory, just a name.” And today that is seems the case. Everyone knows her name but very little about her except the common folklore. I could not in good conscience keep the original. So I made copies of many of the pages. Even that would not be allowed today. And those pages are part of the collection.  Looking at those pages one sees what a theoretician, innovator and statistician she was.

5.       You wrote several songs about nurses, where can we listen to them?

I have had several ideas about how to tell the story of her life. I thought of a documentary called “On The Trail Of Miss Nightingale” where a host visited and talked about all the locations important to her life. Then, because I am a songwriter a few songs about her and nursing just came to me. Then I got the idea to write an opera about her life and wrote some more songs. Then I got the idea of a spoken word and song one man show about her life and nursing complete with projected slides. Then I tried to write a film treatment. A couple of the songs made it onto CD’s. I made a CD of four nurse songs called “Thank The Nurse” and still have a few of those around. I am currently working  on a new album and it will include several new songs about her and her sister. Over the years I have performed and talked about Florence Nightingale only a dozen times. I am amazed at the lack of song and film and about Florence Nightingale and nursing. Even though she is probably the most written about woman in history. She is never named as one of the famous and important women in the 20th century.

I think her image is tangled up in the convoluted thoughts and disinformation about women in general and nurses in particular. In today’s world there seems to be a lack of interest in history and an emphasis on the present and making a living. Perhaps that makes good common sense in today’s market place. But I still believe that her story is exciting, important and should be told.

6.       Why did you decide to build a website telling the story of Florence Nightingale, what else does it include?

It started as a simple idea. I wanted to show how interesting her life was and how important a person she was. We started with a timeline containing important events in her life from before her birth to her death. Each time I learned or discovered something new we added it. It is the only such site in the world. That just happened one thing at a time over a period of almost twenty years.  It is impossible for me to say what it includes. I will just say it includes everything I think is important to her life. You will not find some of that information any place else. I hope that UCSF Nursing School will continue to add to the site now that it is archived by the university.

 7.       Do you know how many visitors it attracts?

It is hard to interpret visitors to a site. But I will guess several hundred a month. Many of them are school children doing studies on famous women. I would be interested to know who uses the site. It was built for my own entertainment so I never had in mind visitors really.

Cover of the book from Country Joe McDonald's Florence Nightingale collection, "People at Work: The Nurse," 1963.

Cover of the book from the Country Joe McDonald’s Florence Nightingale collection, “People at Work: The Nurse,” 1963.

8.      Now that your collection and website are preserved at the UCSF Archives will you continue adding materials and updating the site?

I doubt that I will add much more to the site. But you never know. It would be wonderful if UCSF students doing nurse history would add to the site. There is now a new generation growing up with the internet and computers and they certainly could expand the site.

9.       For many years you have being performing a show based on the story of Florence Nightingale and other war nurses, where can our readers view it?

There really is no where to view it. I thought over the years that there should be some film or video made so that it could perhaps be used as an educational tool but that never happened. I do not perform much any more. I did do a short performance of spoken word and song in a Berkeley book store a few months ago around the subject of War Nursing. That was the first time I did that. I used material from the Crimean War, World War I and the Vietnam War with a subject theme of “burn out.”

10.  Do you have any nurses in your family?

My wife is a Labor and Delivery nurse and RN midwife. My brother retired after 37 years as a nurse and then nurse practitioner. My daughter just graduated and received her RN license. My niece is a nurse at UCSF Hospital and her husband is an RN.  As an aside, my mother’s name was Florence. It is said that most of the women of the 19th and 20th century named Florence were named after her. She was named Florence after the Italian city of her birth, Florence .

11. What do you want to wish the nurses around the world on this International Nurses Day that is celebrated on the birthday of Florence Nightingale?

I hope that nurses are able to appreciate the great sacrifices that those early pioneers made creating the wonderful profession of nursing. I hope that they are able to be proud of the work they do. I want them to know that we appreciate what they do daily often saving lives and allowing us all to lead happy and healthy lives. And I hope that they are able to take the day off and treat themselves to some well earned R&R.

1920s Nursing Uniforms from the “Aristocrat of Uniforms”

Check out the newest line of nursing uniforms from Bob Evans, the “Aristocrat of Uniforms,” circa 1925!

Cover of Bob Evans nursing uniform catalog, circa 1925, MSS 2013-4

Cover of Bob Evans nursing uniform catalog, circa 1925, MSS 2013-4

These illustrations come from a catalog created by Bob Evans Uniforms. The catalog was sent to Dr. Hendrik Belgum, founder of the Grande Vista Sanatorium, in 1925. The sanatorium, located near Richmond, California, treated patients with a variety of mental and physical conditions. Belgum regularly received promotional material from pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies like Bob Evans.

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Alongside the catalog’s illustrations are claims regarding the company’s quality and craftsmanship. The back cover even notes that the uniforms are made in “sunlit, cheerful and sanitary workrooms by expert sewers.”mss20134_1_bobevansuniform3mss20134_1_bobevansuniform4

Hope you enjoy these uniforms guaranteed to be “the nurses’ pride and pleasure.” To see more material from Dr. Belgum’s sanatorium, take a look at the Grande Vista Sanatorium collection, MSS 2013-4.

Accessions & Additions

We’re always busy accepting new collections and pushing through our backlog to make as many collections available for research as possible. This long list of new catalog records includes materials relating to tobacco control, UCSF, neurology, nursing education, HIV/AIDS organizations, pharmacy, medical librarianship, pediatric diabetes, and more. Click on the titles below to learn more the contents, subjects, and size of these collections.

Contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn more. And please don’t hesitate to use the calendar on the right to make an appointment to come in and use the collections!

Our catalog updates over the past six months:

Exploring the Archives for 150: School of Nursing Comic Books

In preparation for UCSF’s 150th anniversary celebration exhibits, we’ve been doing a bit of exploring in the vaults. For the next several months, I’ll be posting some of the treasures we’ve discovered!     

In 1944, the graduating class of the UCSF School of Nursing received a unique gift…a comic book dedicated to their experiences as student nurses.

Cover of The Adventures of Miss Smith, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 1:1

Cover of The Adventures of Miss Smith, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 1:1

This homemade book, created by Marjorie Carlson and titled The Adventures of Miss Smith, includes 31 illustrations that parody everything from late-night cram study sessions to overwhelming patient and doctor requests.

Illustration from The Adventures of Miss Smith, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 1:1

Carlson makes special note of the imposing landscape of Parnassus, a reference to which current students and staff can definitely relate!

Illustration from The Adventures of Miss Smith, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 1:1.

Illustration from The Adventures of Miss Smith, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 1:1.

In 1947, nursing student Phyllis P. Benson created a similar comic book, titled Nurses in Embryo.

Illustration from Nurses in Embryo, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 7:1

Cover of Nurses in Embryo, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 7:1

In her introduction, Benson notes that the book “is the realization of an idea one of us had during our pre-clinical semester – to record some of the amusing, humiliating and exasperating experiences we’ve had in training both on and off duty. Each of our twenty-nine class members is represented…these things couldn’t have happened – but they did!”

Illustration from Nurses in Embryo, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 7:1

Illustration from Nurses in Embryo, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 7:1

While Benson maintains a humorous tone throughout, she also illustrates some serious issues that mid-century nursing students faced. For instance, five of the twenty-nine anecdotal illustrations reference sexual harassment from doctors and patients.

Illustration from Nurses in Embryo, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 7:1

Illustration from Nurses in Embryo, Archives Classification, N-S, folder 7:1

Documents like these provide excellent evidence for researchers looking to better understand students’ lives and experiences. They speak to the history of nursing training at UCSF and showcase unique individual stories. To view more images from the books, visit our digital collections or come see the real thing in the UCSF Archives and Special Collections.

Recent Accession: Children’s Hospital, San Francisco Nursing School

We’ve recently acquired a collection from the Children’s Hospital of San Francisco Nurses’ Alumnae Association, MSS 2006-17. Let’s break that down.

Children's Hospital of San Francisco Training School for Nurses Little Jim yearbook, 1925, page 45

Children’s Hospital of San Francisco Training School for Nurses Little Jim yearbook, 1925, page 45, MSS 2006-17.

The California Pacific Medical Center’s historical timeline and UCSF History site prove quite useful for untangling this history. In 1875 the Pacific Dispensary for Women and Children was founded in San Francisco. It underwent a name change and became, more recognizably, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Under the leadership of the pioneering Dr. Charlotte Blake Brown (1846-1904) in 1882, the hospital began offering a two-year training program for nurses– the first official of its kind on the West Coast. And in 1887, it finds a new home at the intersection of California & Maple streets. At this point, “the two-story hospital has 25 private rooms, open wards, a cow barn, chicken yard, and laundry. Total cost, with furniture and equipment: $26,000.” The University of California Medical School (that’s us– UCSF!) begins partnering with Children’s Hospital in 1915 to teach medical students.

Group of nursing students, MSS 2006-17

Group of nursing students, circa 1925, MSS 2006-17.

Which brings us just to about the time period of this collection. Donated by the granddaughter of Ruth Steuben, an alumna of the Children’s Hospital Training School for Nurses, the material covers the education of Steuben, roughly 1925-1929, and includes class notes, yearbooks, photographs, and a uniform apron. Digital copies of Steuben’s school records as well as photographs and letters from the mothers of children nursed by Steuben soon after her graduation are also included. Below, a photograph of Ruth with her graduating class, December 1927, from the Little Jim yearbook.

Class of December 1927, including Ruth Steuben. Children's Hospital of San Francisco Training School for Nurses Little Jim yearbook, 1926, page 22, MSS 2006-17.

Class of December 1927, including Ruth Steuben. Children’s Hospital of San Francisco Training School for Nurses Little Jim yearbook, 1926, page 22, MSS 2006-17.

And a photograph of many of the same students at a nursing school reunion event in May 1948.

Reunion of nursing school graduates, May 1948, MSS 2006-17.

Reunion of nursing school graduates, May 1948, MSS 2006-17.

And now, for your further enjoyment: crossword puzzles! The 1948 Little Jim yearbook includes not one, but two crossword puzzles. The first was created by Adelaide Brown, M.D. (1868-1933) who was the daughter of Dr. Charlotte Blake Brown– both were longtime activists for women and children’s health.

Crossword puzzle by Adelaide Brown, M.D. Children's Hospital of San Francisco Training School for Nurses Little Jim yearbook, 1925, page 48, MSS 2006-17.

Crossword puzzle by Adelaide Brown, M.D. Children’s Hospital of San Francisco Training School for Nurses Little Jim yearbook, 1925, page 48, MSS 2006-17.

Crossword puzzle.  Children's Hospital of San Francisco Training School for Nurses Little Jim yearbook, 1925, page 50, MSS 2006-17.

Crossword puzzle. Children’s Hospital of San Francisco Training School for Nurses Little Jim yearbook, 1925, page 50, MSS 2006-17.

Please see our other collections regarding the Children’s Hospital of San Francisco Nursing School Alumnae Association, MSS 89-20 and MSS 91-101. Read more about Dr. Charlotte Blake Brown in this fascinating article, The San Francisco Experiment: Female Medical Practitioners Caring for Women and Children, 1875-1932, by Meredith Eliassen and published online in Gender Forum.