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95 I wanted to tell you I am not coming back (to training). . . . I’m beastly sorry after all you have done things turned out this way, but I guess it couldn’t be helped. —St. Luke’s trainee, ca. 19201 s the 1920s dawned, some of the most significant social changes of the century were underway, including women’s suffrage, prohibition , and social service. Renowned nursing educator Mary Adelaide Nutting reflected, “Prohibition and woman suffrage are two of the recent great social movements which will profoundly affect the future of nursing.”2 Inspired by the changes sweeping the nation, St. Paul nurses joined with other area women in establishing public drinking fountains throughout the city, organizing Children’s Health Days, and providing fresh milk for children through milk stations they set up in the schools.3 Many of the St. Luke’s trainees, feeling the buoyant mood of the new decade, no doubt tackled their work with rekindled zeal. They were likely encouraged also by the January 1920 agreement to raise private-duty nursing fees by “five dollars per week in all cases, with five hours off duty each day.”4 Some trainees, however, must have found it difficult to appreciate the widespread optimism. By choice, circumstance, or some combination of the two, these women faced an untimely end to their training. One such individual , Miss Edythe Tanner, wrote to the superintendent of nursing, on July 9, 1920: “Miss Patterson, you will find enclosed under separate cover, the textbooks, property of St. Luke’s Hospital, which I am returning. Also the uniform and cap which are the only articles of uniform I happened to have, 6 Grounds for Dismissal, Reasons to Leave A Olson_CH6_2nd.qxd 1/13/2004 2:24 PM Page 95 which did get mixed with my belongings. I can assure you they are of no value whatever to me and I am only too glad to return them.”5 Miss Tanner had been a St. Luke’s nurse for just over two years. One can imagine that the indignation apparent in her message was evident also in her face as she delivered the note and closed the door of the hospital behind her for one last time. She had a relatively short walk to the central train station, where she then boarded the coach to her hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota. The events surrounding Miss Tanner’s early departure from the hospital were at once unique, yet similar to those involving the 298 other individuals who left St. Luke’s prior to completing their training. Like many of these women, Miss Tanner’s interest in nursing was initially sparked by hearing about friends and relatives who were nurses. Her decision to apply to St. Luke’s followed conversations with a friend who previously graduated from the hospital. Miss Tanner had been far from a novice when it came to the actual work of nursing, having accumulated ten months of nursing experience in another hospital prior to entering St. Luke’s in April 1918.Although her file gave no clue as to why she left her former position, the work records of all the applicants show that prior training experience was not unusual. In any event, the descriptions of Miss Tanner reveal that her work and training at St. Luke’s progressed satisfactorily until the morning of February 23, 1919. On that morning, according to the nursing superintendent, “Miss Tanner, a night nurse, refused to . . . return to the birth room after breakfast to assist putting same in order for the day nurses as is customary in the regular routine of the hospital.”6 This was only the beginning of her difficulties. Alerted by this incident, the nursing superintendent, Sarah Higgins, began to pay closer attention to Miss Tanner’s work. Her concern grew, through her own observations of the apprentice and discussions with other supervisors. Miss Higgins made particular note of the following problems, some of which were clearly more serious than others:· Miss Tanner neglected a patient’s hair. The hair, which was long and heavy, was not combed for a week, and was very much snarled and matted.· On night duty, I often found her sitting at the desk reading . . .· While on the Ground Floor . . . she refused to go to the attic for a cot bed, saying that she had just been once, and that it was orderly’s work anyway.· She stayed at a friends over night one Saturday night without permission, and when...


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