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.

1920’s Medical Crossword Puzzle Answers

No spoilers here. Click through to see the answers.

If you haven’t seen the crossword puzzles, yet, check out the previous post on the Children’s Hospital of San Francisco Alumnae Association collection.

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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.