Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing [Contact Us]Claire Fagin Hall, 418 Curie Boulevard, Floor 2U, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-4217
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Mary Starke Harper, RN, PhD, FAAN (1919-2006), devoted her 60-year career to nursing and leadership in health policy posts. Born in rural Alabama the oldest of eight children, Harper aspired to be a nurse from an early age and earned a nursing diploma from Tuskegee University in 1941. She received a bachelor’s degree in education (1950) and a master’s degree in nursing education with a psychiatric nursing clinical specialty (1952), both from the University of Minnesota, where she was the first African American graduate and nursing instructor of the school of nursing. In addition, she completed a doctorate in clinical psychology and medical sociology at St. Louis University (1963).
In the 1940s, Harper participated in the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study without being informed of the full nature of the study. When the details of the study became public in 1972, Harper expressed her outrage and became an advocate for improving the informed consent process for studies supported with government funds. In the same year, Harper began working at the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She was instrumental in organizing the first NIMH Minority Fellowship program and went on to direct the program. Subsequently, Harper served as an advisor on mental health and aging for Presidents Carter, Reagan, G.H. W. Bush, and Clinton. Following her formal retirement in 1995, Harper served on the National Institute of Aging’s National Advisory Council and as a board member or advisor to numerous other organizations, foundations, and universities. Harper died in 2006.
The collection consists primarily of research files which Dr. Harper assembled from 1972-1988, when she held leadership posts at the National Institute of Mental Health, and read, spoke, and wrote widely on all facets of geropsychiatric nursing and the care of the minority elderly. The files contain texts of many of the 180 articles and 5 books in which Dr. Harper addressed issues ranging from overmedication, institutional mistreatment, and undiagnosed mental illness as problems among the elderly, drawing insights from her own long career as a nurse educator, researcher, and colleague of many thousands of health professionals who benefitted from the NIH’s Minority Fellowship Program which she directed. In addition to the manuscript files, the collection contains hundreds of pamphlets and other printed items.Together these materials represent an enormously valuable resource for understanding the development of geriatric nursing; the emergent awareness of specific illnesses of the elderly such as Alzheimer’s; and one nurse leader’s unceasing efforts to learn more about the needs of elderly African American, Native American, and Asian American populations.
Gift of Dr. Mary Starke Harper, 2006.
This collection is unprocessed. A preliminary inventory is given here. Please contact the Center for more information.
- University of Pennsylvania: Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Gail E. Farr, updated by Bethany Myers
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