Roberta M. West collection
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
Roberta West (1862-1931), born in Philadelphia in 1862, graduated in 1886 from the nurse training school at Blockley (the Philadelphia General Hospital). She was, in fact, one of the first graduates of this school of nursing. Following graduation, she received the appointment of superintendent of the Orthopedic Hospital and Infirmary for Nervous Diseases, Philadelphia. Late in 1887 she was recalled to Blockley by Miss Alice Fisher to succeed Edith A. Horner as assistant chief nurse. West left in 1893 to become superintendent of the Emergency Hospital, Washington, D.C., remaining there until 1896. From 1896 to 1897, West served as Directress of Nurses of the Training School of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Next she moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where, from 1897 to 1908, she was first superintendent of nurses and matron, and later superintendent, of Wilkes-Barre City Hospital. In 1909, she became superintendent at Hamot Hospital, Erie, Pennsylvania, until 1912 when she resigned and returned to Philadelphia. Her last institutional position was superintendent of nurses at the Philadelphia Hospital for Contagious Diseases from 1913 to 1917. The Graduate Nurses Association of the State of Pennsylvania (GNAP) was founded in 1903, by nurses "feeling the need of organization, legislation and registration in the state of Pennsylvania." The first meeting was convened at the initiation of the Alumnae Association of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Training School for Nurses. The immediate objective was for "the purpose of promoting State Registration in Pennsylvania," in other words, aiming at a registration law to control education and entry into the nursing profession. Anna E. Brobson of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Alumnae Association was elected GNAP's chairman. At the "organization meeting" held in October 1903, it was further stated that "The object of this Association is to secure registration and such laws as will establish a uniform and definite basis for the practice of nursing." The association was thus formally begun; it was one of the first state nursing associations organized in the country. President M. Margaret Whitaker resigned due to illness in 1905, and Roberta West was appointed to complete her term. West was elected and served as president from 1906 to 1909, and again from 1917 to 1919; she was longer in that office than any other of its presidents. In 1930, the GNAP was reincorporated as the Pennsylvania State Nurses' Association, and in 1955, it became the Pennsylvania Nurses' Association. The specific orientation of regional groups and specialized nurses soon caused the association to branch out in a variety of directions. In 1916 and 1917, the Pennsylvania State League of Nursing Education was founded, followed promptly by the Pennsylvania State Organization for Public Health Nursing and the Private Duty Nurses' Section of the State Association. In 1931, a fourth organization--the Pennsylvania State Association of Nurses Anesthetists was formed. In the meantime, GNAP's by-laws were revised in 1917 to allow for the organization of district associations so that on April 30, 1919, several districts were admitted to membership. Henceforward, state membership could be secured only through the district associations. As the district associations better responded to the needs of individual nurses and regional interests, they facilitated the development of the organization. During World War I, for instance, membership bounded upward as the Red Cross accepted only nurses who were members of their state associations. Many of West's papers document the GNAP. In 1924, President Jessie L. Turnbull recommended the preparation of a history of the association, together with a history of the development of the nursing profession in Pennsylvania. West was chosen at the 1925 convention as the Association's Historian. In 1928, a History Committee was appointed to assist Miss West. Institutions were surveyed and material was collected statewide for this purpose. A historical outline was "submitted to each institution with a request for corrections or additions over the signature of the president or a representative of the board of directors, and the director of nursing" (from "Introduction"). The final sketch was prepared from these notes. As space limitations did not permit publication of all the information collected, West's notes contain more information than appeared in the book. She had finished the bulk of the preparations before she died unexpectedly in December 1931. The History Committee completed the work by publishing West's manuscripts as History of Nursing in Pennsylvania in 1939.
Roberta West's original manuscripts had been placed in the collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In 1992, these materials were transferred to the Center for the History of the Study of Nursing.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- University of Pennsylvania: Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by created by Center Staff, updated by Jessica Clark
- 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 documents West's involvement with the Graduate Nurses' Association of State of Pennsylvania and her association with the League of Nursing Education, National Organization for Public Health Nursing and Board of Examiners for Registration of Nurses.
Included here are correspondence requesting and receiving the historical hospital and school for nursing data West used in compiling the hospital and school for nursing sketches. Documents of approval, financing and committee minutes for the history projects are also in this series.
This series includes addresses, histories and journal reprints West used in writing the history.
This includes the manuscripts of Nurses' Organizations in Pennsylvania and Parts I, II and III of the history.
This series includes a small number of portraits of West, one of Dorothea Lynde Dix and photographs of hospitals.