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Guide to the St. Francis School of Nursing Records, 1915-2003
Table of Contents
- The St. Francis School of Nursing operated in La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1902 to 1970, and was associated with St. Francis Hospital (now Franciscan Skemp Health Care), Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and Viterbo College (now Viterbo University). Materials of the School of Nursing include historical photographs, newspaper clippings about the school and students, bulletins and promotional materials, handbooks for students, biographical information on nursing faculty, clippings and other miscellaneous information about St. Francis Hospital. Also included are records of the St. Francis Alumnae Association, the nursing school’s alumni group, which include constitution/bylaws, historical materials, and homecoming booklets (1943, 1947, 1963, 1970, and 1983).
- Collection Title
- St. Francis School of Nursing Records
- Date of Materials
- St. Francis School of Nursing (La Crosse, Wis.).
- Call Number
- MSS 115
- 0.4 cubic feet
- Physical Description
- 1 archives box
- Language of Materials
- La Crosse Public Library Archives
[Identification of item], St. Francis School of Nursing Records, MSS 115, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI
St. Francis Hospital, built and operated by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA), opened its doors on New Years Eve in 1883. From its earliest days, the Hospital’s nursing service presented a unified front of preparation and practice. After the decision was made to build a hospital, and even before the plans were completed, the Sisters who were to take charge were recalled from their respective assignments to the motherhouse to prepare for their new work. In addition, a regular course of studies with semiweekly lectures was organized by the local physicians so competent nurses would be ready to care for the patients.
Because of limited personnel, the Sisters were obliged to work long hours. At times, the little sleep that could be snatched was on a couch or chair at the bedside of a patient. As the number of patients continued to increase, it was clear the Hospital would need more hands beyond those the FSPA could provide. In 1901, the Sisters decided to open the classes taught by the physicians to women who were not members of the sisterhood. In that decision, the foundation for what was to become the St. Francis School of Nursing was laid.
The St. Francis School of Nursing may be classed as a pioneer among pioneers, if its history is considered in respect to the history of the country’s training schools. Nationally, there was a need for trained nurses, but until the late 19th and 20th century, there were few formal programs, particularly for laywomen. In general, training schools for secular nurses were practically unknown before 1870, and most were not established until the late 1870s in the East.
The first seculars, Elizabeth Powell and Anna Newall, were admitted in 1901, although at that time no course of study had been formally organized for them. With the formal organization of the training program for nurses developed in 1902, the responsibility for nursing care became that of the sister superintendent in charge of the school. Sister Seraphia was appointed the superintendent, with Sisters Mathilda and Theodora as instructors.
Candidates were accepted and after 15 months of instruction and hospital nursing, were awarded certificates. The course of instruction included practical nursing in the wards and a term of service in the operating room. Classes were held in St. Francis Hospital until 1927 at which time they were moved to the newly constructed St. Ann’s Maternity Hospital.
The school was first accredited by the Wisconsin Committee on National Education in 1911, and became affiliated with Viterbo College in La Crosse and Catholic University of Washington, D.C., in 1943. The National League of Nursing granted the school national accreditation in 1954. After three years of educational and professional studies, the students were ready to graduate and assume the role of a professional nurse.
The St. Francis School of Nursing graduated 1,999 nurses from its opening in 1901 until its last graduating class in 1971. Viterbo University, which offered a four year undergraduate degree in nursing, took over the role of preparing nurses.
In order to establish a bond that would keep them united and loyal to their Alma Mater, the St. Francis Hospital Alumnae Association held its first meeting on June 1, 1914.
The Alumnae Association inherited materials of the School of Nursing when it closed in 1970.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains materials of both the St. Francis School of Nursing and its associated alumnae association called St. Francis Alumnae Association.
Records of the St. Francis School of Nursing include historical photographs (including several of the Iron Lung), newspaper clippings about the school and students, bulletins and promotional materials, handbooks for students (undated, 1948, 1964), biographical information on nursing faculty, clippings and other miscellaneous information about St. Francis Hospital.
This body of corporate records also includes materials of the St. Francis Alumnae Association which was the nursing school’s alumni group. These records include constitution/bylaws, historical materials, and homecoming materials and booklets (1943, 1947, 1963, 1970, 1983).
Materials are arranged in two series:
La Crosse Public Library Archives 2007 November800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
Access to Materials
Materials in this collection are available for patron use.
(Accession no. 2006.095) Donated by Virginia C. Marcotte Larkin, 2006 October
(Accession no. 2007.016) Donated by the La Crosse County Historical Society, 2007 March
Processed by Brian S. Hannum, 2007 November
- (Local publications)
- St. Francis News
- (Local publications)
- St. Francis Alumnae Association newsletters
- (378.775 SA231H)
- Homecoming booklets
Some materials were separated from the collection and added to the local publications collection. This includes issues of St. Francis News, 1950-1964 (from the School of Nursing) and St. Francis Alumnae Association Newsletters, 1965-2006. Two booklets were separated and added to the book collection. These were the homecoming booklets of 1963 and 1983. Other homecoming booklets already cataloged in the collection prior to processing this collection include 1943, 1947 and 1970.
Controlled Access Headings
- St. Francis Hospital (La Crosse, Wis.).
- St. Francis School of Nursing (La Crosse, Wis.). Alumnae Association.
- St. Francis School of Nursing (La Crosse, Wis.).
- Nurses--Wisconsin--La Crosse
- Nursing schools--Wisconsin--La Crosse
- Nursing schools--Wisconsin--La Crosse--Alumni and alumnae
(Series 1) St. Francis School of Nursing
Bulletins and promotional materials, 1963-1981
Handbook for students, 1948, 1964
Newspaper clippings and miscellaneous, 1941-2002
Nursing faculty, 1964-2003
Physicians and hospital, 1920-1993
(Series 2) St. Francis Alumnae Association
Constitution and bylaws, 1919-1979
Homecoming booklets, 1943-1983