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.

Women’s History Month – Dr. Florence Nightingale Ward

Continuing our look at talented and trailblazing women, we’re highlighting the work of homeopathic physician Florence Nightingale Saltonstall Ward (1860-1919).

Illustration of Ward from San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 1895. MSS 2011-08, box 1

Illustration of Ward from the San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 1895. MSS 2011-08, box 1

Ward was a prominent San Francisco surgeon, obstetrician, and gynecologist from 1887 to her death in 1919. She dedicated her life to providing safer, more accessible medical care for women and developing techniques that made childbirth less dangerous.

Ward received medical training from a number of hospitals and schools in Europe and the United States, including California’s foremost homeopathic institution, Hahnemann Medical College of the Pacific. She later served as Professor of Obstetrics at Hahnemann and held leadership positions in local and national organizations, including becoming vice president of the American Institute of Homeopathy. In 1915, Ward became the second woman to be elected to the American College of Surgeons, an appointment that recognized her many contributions to the fields of gynecology and surgery.

Ward's diploma from the New York Polyclinic Medical School, 1888. MSS 2011-08, oversize box 1

Ward’s diploma from the New York Polyclinic Medical School, 1888. MSS 2011-08, oversize box 1

Ward built her own sanatorium exclusively for women in San Francisco between 1907 and 1910. She employed an all-female staff and provided unique career opportunities for women with professional medical training.

Invitation to Ward's sanitarium, 1910. MSS 2011-08, box 1

Invitation to Ward’s sanitarium, circa 1910. MSS 2011-08, box 1

Ward’s practice blended conventional medical techniques with homeopathic remedies and treatments. Homeopathy was developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the early 19th century. His system was based on the theory that a substance that causes certain symptoms in a healthy person will cure those symptoms in a sick person. Ward was likely drawn to homeopathy in part because the field provided more opportunities for women than conventional medical practice. For instance, homeopathy schools regularly accepted female students while medical schools routinely denied women applicants because of their gender. Homeopathic professional organizations also welcomed women’s participation. As women struggled to find a place in the American Medical Association, Ward and other women helped lead the American Institute of Homeopathy and delivered papers at major homeopathy conferences.

Ward's list of symptoms and their homeopathic treatments, ca. 1880. MSS 2011-08, vault

Ward’s list of symptoms and their homeopathic treatments, ca. 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

At UCSF, we house the Florence Nightingale Ward papers, MSS 2011-08, and a collection of rare homeopathy material. Ward’s papers include homeopathic medicine kits used by her in the late 19th century. Take a look inside one monogrammed kit below. Many of the vials contain substances still used in homeopathic remedies today!

Ward's monogrammed homeopathic medical kit, circa 1900. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

Ward’s monogrammed homeopathic medicine kit, circa 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

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Ward’s monogrammed homeopathic medicine kit, circa 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

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Ward’s monogrammed homeopathic medicine kit, detail, circa 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault

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Ward’s monogrammed homeopathic medicine kit, detail, circa 1890. MSS 2011-08, upstairs vault