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Bates Center Digitizes for “In Her Own Right” Project

The Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing is participating in “In Her Own Right: Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920,” which aims to uncover archival materials that document the early struggle for women’s rights.

The Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing is currently participating in an effort to identify material documenting the early struggle for women’s rights in Philadelphia-area archives. As one of the members of the “In Her Own Right: Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920,” planning grant, the Bates Center digitized a selection of the pre-1920 student records from the Mercy-Douglass Hospital School of Nursing collection. 

The Mercy-Douglass Hospital School of Nursing, which was created by the merger of two institutions, Mercy Hospital and Fredrick Douglass Hospital, was an African-American hospital and the first training school for black nurses in in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It operated from 1895-1960.

The school of nursing records are predominantly student files and photographs that document the experience of black women in nursing. This series of images from Fredrick Douglass Hospital are pre-1920 student records, including applications, letters from potential students and references, transcripts, and photographs. Students applying to the school were expected to be well-educated and of good moral standing, neat, and pleasing in appearance, and both obedient yet assertive. By drawing on these many values, young black women were able to exercise their agency.

These sources document the demographics of nursing students, including age, educational and employment background, location, and religion. The records also include performance evaluations, employment after graduation, the subjects required for training, and the qualities associated with a successful nurse.

You can view a selection of the digitized records and photos from the collection here