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.
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.
Carlson makes special note of the imposing landscape of Parnassus, a reference to which current students and staff can definitely relate!
In 1947, nursing student Phyllis P. Benson created a similar comic book, titled Nurses in Embryo.
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!”
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.
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.