Alumnae Association of Mercy-Douglass Hospital School of Nursing records
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
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The Mercy-Douglass Hospital was formed in 1948 from the joining of two Philadelphia hospitals which served a predominantly African-American patient population: the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and the Mercy Hospital. Originally, the Frederick Douglass Hospital and School for Nursing was founded by Dr. Nathan F. Mossell in an effort to create an institution where African-American physicians and nurses could have equal opportunity to train and practice. Prior to this conceptualization, it was a common occurrence that African-American medical school graduates would be denied intern positions in Philadelphia hospitals, which were presided by white administrators and medical professionals. Similarly, it was difficult for young African-American women to formally enroll in institutions that would provide quality nursing training. Therefore, in a bid for equality, the Frederick Douglass Hospital opened on October 31, 1895 at 15th and Lombard Streets in South Philadelphia. By its second year of operation (1896), Frederick Douglass Hospital had five students enrolled in the nurse training program. The curriculum for the nursing students prescribed attendance at 3-4 lectures per week given by the hospital’s medical staff, a course in massaging, and a course in “invalid cooking”. Later, due to dissent within the Frederick Douglass Hospital regarding the limited opportunities for younger physicians to gain practical and surgical experience, a group of physicians sought to organize a newer, more “progressive” hospital.
Thus, Dr. Eugene T. Henson and his colleagues opened the Mercy Hospital and School for Nurses on February 12, 1907 at 17th and Fitzwater Streets in South Philadelphia. The Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County granted a charter of operation to the Mercy Hospital and School for Nurses on April 2, 1907. The curriculum for the nursing students consisted of a series of lectures given by the director of nursing and attending nursing staff of the hospital. The first class of nurses, seven students in total, graduated in 1909. In 1917 the length of the nurse training program was extended to three years. In 1919, the Mercy Hospital relocated to 50th Street and Woodland Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia. By 1931 the School for Nurses charged students an entry fee of $50 and distributed an allowance (termed “pin money”) of $5 per month to the students. By 1941 the cost of entering the School for Nurses had increased to $125 and “probationers” who had successfully completed six months of the curriculum were awarded caps. Capping exercises were held for those who had proven themselves capable in mind, spirit, and body to follow the profession of nursing.
However, due to recurrent financial difficulties, and consequently a growing deficiency in supplies, equipment, and facility quality in both the Frederick Douglass Hospital and the Mercy Hospital, the two institutions agreed to merge into the Mercy-Douglass Hospital and School for Nurses, which opened on March 11, 1948. In addition to hopes for better economic forecasts through shared facilities, equipment, and staff, the joining of the two hospitals represented a united front in promoting the ideal that a teaching hospital could be established where both African-American and white medical interns and nurses could receive quality training.
Prior to the merger, there existed an alumnae organization for the nurses who were trained in Mercy Hospital, named the Mercy Hospital Alumni Association. Even before the hospitals had officially joined, the nurses from these two institutions anticipated the union of their hospitals and organized the Alumnae Association of the School of Nursing of Mercy-Douglass Hospital on December 1, 1918. After the two hospitals merged in 1948 to form the Mercy-Douglass Hospital and School for Nurses (later renamed the School of Nursing), the alumni association was renamed the Alumnae Association of Mercy-Douglass Hospital School of Nursing. The alumnae association met monthly, with the exception of July and August, to carry out its functions and activities. As early as November of 1948, meetings, events, and organizational duties of the Alumnae Association were managed by executive officers in the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Corresponding Secretary.
Also in 1948, the Association was subdivided into the following committees: Scholarship, Entertainment, Membership, Sickness/Births, Donation Day, Home-Coming, and the Drive Committee. Each committee was led by a member of the Association who served as a committee chairman. Notably, the Alumnae Association maintained a scholarship fund from which members of the Association could borrow money for educational purposes. Those who withdrew from the fund would later be sent a bill for the amount borrowed to be repaid with interest; this fund was managed by the Scholarship Committee. The Entertainment Committee was responsible for organizing regular social events for all members of the Alumnae Association, in order to foster a sense of community among the members. The Membership Committee recorded the activities of individual members in regard to their duties to the Association, namely notices of new members who joined the organization and whether current members had paid their dues. The Sickness/Births committee would regularly announce any known reports of members who had fallen ill or given birth to children within the past month, sending flowers and cards to convey the best wishes of the Alumnae Association; acknowledgements of recent marriages were also often noted in the communications of the Sickness/Births committee. The Home-Coming and Donation Day Committees primarily planned for their respective annual events, the Home-Coming formal for all Alumnae Association members and the Donation Day for alumnae seeking to contribute monetarily to the Association. Finally, the Drive Committee was responsible for reaching out to all members of the Alumnae Association to recruit help in organizing, staffing, or donating to fundraising drives for the Mercy-Douglass Hospital.
The copy of the Constitution and Bylaws for the Alumnae Association of Mercy-Douglass Hospital School of Nursing enclosed in this collection was last revised in 1959. Article I of the document describes the organization’s name, purpose, and functions; Article II delineates the types of membership available within the organization, the methods of application, and the terms of membership forfeiture; Article III describes the rules regulating membership joining fees and dues; Article IV describes the types of meetings, meeting notices, an outline of a typical meeting agenda, and the rules governing the process of voting; Article V describes each of the individual Executive Board officer positions and duties; Article VI describes the powers and responsibilities of the Executive Board as a whole, as well as the rules governing Executive Board meetings; Article VII lists the committees and their duties; Article VIII describes the rules governing the process of officer elections; Article IX describes the rules governing the process of amending the Constitution and Bylaws; and Article X describes the Parliamentary Authority in place during meetings, as described in Roberts Rules of Order Revised. By 1959, the Alumnae Association had developed into a sophisticated, well-organized democratic body. Their executive board had expanded to include the following positions: President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, and Chaplain. Meanwhile, the Association committees had expanded to include: Program (organizing a document detailing the agenda for meetings), Membership (now responsible only for the recruitment of new members and aiding in the processing of applications), Sunshine (previously the Sickness/Birth Committee), Scholarship, Nominating (to aid in elections), Auditing (a division of the previous Membership Committee devoted only to managing individual members’ accounts and rights of membership), By-laws (to review, study, and revise Bylaws as needed), and Homecoming. Above all, the Alumnae Association had successfully grown into an organization capable of fulfilling its ultimate purpose -- fostering high standards of professional nursing and promoting a cooperative and friendly spirit among graduates of the Mercy-Douglass School of Nursing.
The Mercy-Douglass School of Nursing graduated its last class of seven students in June 1960. Since its inception, the Mercy-Douglass School of Nursing had successfully trained and graduated 520 students, but due to financial difficulties, the school could not remain in operation. However, the Alumnae Association of Mercy-Douglass Hospital School of Nursing, Inc. survived and thrived beyond the closings of the School of Nursing and the Mercy-Douglass Hospital, which shuttered its doors in July of 1973.
Gift of the Alumnae Association of Mercy-Douglass Hospital School of Nursing.
- Alumnae Association of Mercy-Douglass School of Nursing.
- Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.).
- University of Pennsylvania: Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Center staff, updated by Bethany Myers
- This collection was processed with funds provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission as part of the Nursing History Processing and Cataloging Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is unrestricted.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Center with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
This series includes one file of meeting minutes prior to the merger of Douglass Memorial and Mercy Hospital.
Included in this series are documentation of the history of Mercy-Douglass school of nursing and the alumnae association (1918-1973), also the constitution and by-laws (1959). In this series are programs of home-coming for the Philadelphia and other state chapters; newspaper clippings concerning the activities of the hospital and school of nursing; and the study "Career Achievements for Graduates" (1909-1960).
In this series are files of people with whom the Alumnae Association has had contact. It documents a study of Negro nurses done by the Local Association of Colored Graduate Nurses of Philadelphia and Vicinity (1946) and includes programs and newsletters from the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (1941-1949).
There are 598 photographs in this series depicting special events, such as the naming of the new nurse’s home for L.G. Warlick (1956); reunions; alumnae meetings and home-comings. It includes photographs from Grace Manning Green’s scrapbook (Class of 1930).
This contains two (2) small souvenir glass vases from the hospital family reunion (1987).
This series includes scrapbooks, announcements for a benefit concert (1896), and a poster for the School of Nursing basketball game (1951).