Dorothy A. Mereness papers
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.
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Dorothy Ann Mereness, R.N., Ed.D., F.A.A.N., was Dean of the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania from 1965 to 1977 and a pioneer in the development of psychiatric nursing.
Born 1910 in Kearney, Missouri, Mereness started her career as an elementary school teacher in Las Animas, Colorado. However, in 1938 with "parental scorn", as Mereness later recalled, she resigned her position as sixth grade teacher to become a nurse, a profession that her father had earlier forbidden her to enter, and enrolled at the Frances Payne School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
Only after two years at Case Western Reserve did Mereness's interest in psychiatric nurse develop. During the summer of 1940 she took psychiatric and communicable disease nursing. This class was among the first to use the textbook Psychiatry for Nurses by Dr. Louis L. Karnosh, a professor at Case Western Reserve and Director of the Psychiatric Division of Cleveland Hospital. Karnosh's work fascinated Mereness. She often traveled across town by public transportation to hear Karnosh's lectures, and she eventually became co-author and finally sole author of Karnosh's book. Even after Mereness stopped authoring the popular textbook, now in its thirteenth edition, the publishers kept her name as part of the title.
After graduating from Case Western Reserve in 1941, Mereness became Instructor of Psychiatric Nursing at City Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, a position that she accepted only after learning that Dr. Karnosh had recommended her. However, Mereness stayed at City Hospital for four years. The War Department listed her position as "essential," since few medical personnel were qualified to treat soldiers suffering from the traumas of war. When the war ended, Mereness left Cleveland City Hospital to explore other professional opportunities. After a brief stay as Educational Director of a hospital-based nursing program, Mereness returned to psychiatric nursing, a specialty that she held to for the rest of her career. Mereness enrolled in the graduate psychiatric nursing program at the University of Pittsburgh,
and became part of the faculty upon graduation. Later an innovative approach to psychiatric care at the Massachusetts Health Center, which involved nurse/patient therapeutic interactions, aroused her interest and on that account Mereness accepted a position at Boston University.
However, after only a year in Boston, Mereness left to pursue her doctoral studies at Teacher's College, Columbia University. During this period, Mereness co-wrote the graduate psychiatric nursing curriculum for New York University. Before even finishing her dissertation, Mereness became Head of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing at NYU. After ten years at the University, Mereness moved south to Philadelphia to be the Dean of the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania.
Throughout her career, Mereness devoted herself to the full development of her chosen profession. From 1965-1969, she hired four black faculty members at Penn, a bold and imaginative action given the circumstances of the times. Mereness also strongly believed that it was essential to participate in nursing organizations. Even while serving as Dean, she chaired numerous committees of various nursing organizations including the National League for Nursing and Nurses' Educational Funds. After her retirement in 1977, Mereness continued her amazing volume of work. She served as Emeritus Professor at Penn until 1979, taught for a year part-time at Villanova University, and was Educational Advisor for the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing from 1981 to 1984. From March 1984 until just a year and a half before her death, Mereness served as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Nurses' Association.
Mereness published more than 45 articles and books between 1951 and 1991. Her last article was published posthumously in Nursing Outlook. She was the recipient of many awards including distinguished alumni awards from every nursing program that she attended and honorary doctorate from Villanova and Holy Family College in Philadelphia. She was also honored by the American Nurses' Association, the Pennsylvania League for Nursing, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania League for Nursing. Mereness died at 80 at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia after a brief illness during the Spring of 1991.
Accessions were received from various donors, including Susan B. Dickey, Louise Fitzpatrick, Joan Lynaugh, Jan Smith, and Neville Strumpf.
- 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 contains Mereness's personal papers. It includes biographical information such as autobiographical writings, biographical sketches, resumes, obituary materials and newspaper clippings. Also included are Mereness's speeches and papers--mainly on the topics of the therapeutic role of nurses and nursing education--commencement addresses, awards, correspondence and programs in which she participated.
This series contains materials of the organizations in which Mereness participated. They include the University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, the National League for Nursing, the Pennsylvania League for Nursing Steering Committee for Continuing Education in Psychiatry, the Southeastern Pennsylvania League for Nursing, the Nurses' Educational Funds, the Pennsylvania Nurses' Association, the Pennsylvania Nurses' Association Commission on Nursing Practice, Pennsylvania Nurses' Association Conference Group on Psychiatric Nursing Practice, and Pennsylvania Nurses' Association District One. The series begins with the file of the University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing. Perhaps the most important item in this section is a rewritten history of the School of Nursing prepared by Mereness. The rest of the School of Nursing's file includes a few annual reports, programs, correspondence and publications. The remaining organizations are arranged alphabetically with state and local chapters as well as committees attached as subseries to the parent institutions. Thus, Pennsylvania League for Nursing (PLN) is arranged as subseries to the National League for Nursing, the Southeastern PLN is created as a subseries of PLN, and the PLN Steering Committee for Education in Psychiatry, a committee to study psychiatric nursing education, is also a subseries of PLN.
This series contains both personal and professional pictures of Mereness. Included are portraits and other individual pictures of Mereness, ceremonial photographs, group pictures, and pictures of Mereness's colleagues.
This series contains collected books and cassette tapes and artifacts. The two books are Karnosh's A Psychiatrist's Anthology and Faddis's A School of Nursing Comes of Age. The two cassette tapes are the recordings of a speech by Gaylord P. Harnwell, former president of the University of Pennsylvania, and of a television advertisement for nursing. Among the artifacts are plaques and Mereness's Emeritus Professor medallion.