Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association records now open to the public

Charge nurses, circa 1930

Charge nurses, circa 1930; Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association records, 2014.006, box 16; Brooklyn Historical Society

Brooklyn Historical Society Library & Archives is pleased to announce the opening of the records of the Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association records. The records consist of thirty-one boxes of photographs, yearbooks, newsletters, college catalogs, event-related ephemera, and memorabilia, dating from 1853 to 2013.

The collection documents the lives of nursing students from the late 19th century to the early 21th century. Aspects of student life are illustrated extensively in the school’s yearbooks, newsletters, and photographs. Special events, such as commencements and student recognition ceremonies (pinnings and cappings), are especially well documented. Some objects which belonged to students, such as nursing caps and commemorative pins, are also included in the collection.

Elizabeth "Bessie" Hughes's scrapbook items, 1927-1929

Elizabeth Hughes’s scrapbook items, 1927-1929; Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association records, 2014.006, box 4, folder 19; Brooklyn Historical Society

Some of the items in the collection document specific students. For instance, the photographs and index card above belonged to Elizabeth “Bessie” Hughes, Class of 1930. Those items were part of a scrapbook, and were sent to the Alumnae Association by her brother in 2014. The photographs depict Bessie in her “street clothes” on the LICH roof, as well as a group of nurses with children in their beds. It would seem the children were taken outside for some fresh air. The poem on the index card illustrates the school’s emphasis on the cheerfulness of the nurse, which was to be maintained even on the “stormiest days.” In addition to the scrapbook items, the collection also contains Bessie’s graduation pin and service rank pin (below).

Elizabeth Hughes's rank and Class of 1930 graduation pin, circa 1930

Elizabeth Hughes’s rank and Class of 1930 graduation pin, circa 1930; Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association records, 2014.006, box 30; Brooklyn Historical Society

The Long Island College Hospital (LICH) was founded in Brooklyn, New York, in 1858. The LICH Training School for Nurses, popularly known as the LICH School of Nursing, was established in 1883 (just ten years after the first American nursing school was established across the river at Bellevue Hospital). Irene Sutcliffe, a graduate of the New York Hospital Training School, was selected to organize the school. The first class consisted of just three students: Eileen Fausette, Eugenia Von Arc, and Annie L. Whiting. The three students, along with their instructor, were all women. At the time, the nursing profession was strictly female, while doctors and physicians were almost exclusively male. This gender dynamic would slowly change over the course of the 20th century.

1958 marked the first year that male students were admitted to the school. Although the occasion was noted in the school’s yearbooks and newsletters, it is unclear whether the admission of men was the result of an official change in policy, or if men had simply not been interested in pursuing a nursing career in the past.

Nursing cap, circa 1930s-1960s, and LICH yarmulke, circa 1960s-1970s

Nursing cap, circa 1930s-1960s, and LICH yarmulke, circa 1960s-1970s; boxes 23 and 25; Brooklyn Historical Society

LICH became affiliated with Long Island University in 1960, which resulted in a new emphasis on academics at the nursing school (for the first time liberal arts were included in the school’s curriculum). Evening classes were first established in 1981. According to the school’s 1983 yearbook, the evening classes, “primarily consisted of men who chose nursing as a second career.”

In May 2011, LICH became part of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and was renamed University Hospital of Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital. Soon thereafter it was announced the LICH School of Nursing would no longer accept new students into its nursing program. The school officially closed in May 2013, and soon thereafter Long Island College Hospital also closed.

The Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association records are open to any and all researchers. A guide to the collection is available online at http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/bhs/arms_2014_006_lich_son/. Our library is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 1pm-5pm. If you would like to make an appointment to view this collection, please contact us at library@brooklynhistory.org.

About John Zarrillo

I am an archivist at Brooklyn Historical Society. My job is to make the historical records of Brooklyn openly available to students, scholars, and anyone else interested in the borough's past!
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