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9 I think I should enjoy the work, if one may use such a word in connection with suffering. —St. Luke’s applicant, 19011 he women arrived at separate times, throughout 1892, with “two or three gingham or calico dresses made plainly, six large white aprons made of bleached cotton with bibs . . . two bags for soiled clothes, one pair of scissors, a pin ball and a napkin-ring, a good supply of plain under clothing . . . (and) wear(ing) broad-toed and flat-heeled boots.”As they entered the reception room of the newly opened hospital on Smith Avenue, the superintendent, Mrs. Bradbury, impressed on each one that they were privileged to be among the first group of women to enter the St. Luke’s Hospital Training School for Nurses. They were reminded that “no hospital more perfect in its adaptation to all the requirements of its work can be found in the land,” let alone in St. Paul. Designed with ventilating shafts and many windows to bring in fresh air, the building had the latest conveniences, including both gas and electric lights, speaking tubes, call buttons, and two elevators. Still, the women were only vaguely aware of the powerful forces surrounding the opening of the hospital and its training school.2  The opening of the new St. Luke’s (see figure 1), a hospital that traced its establishment back to 1857, was part of an unparalleled building boom in its hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. In the wake of a surge in population during the 1880s, the number of building permits increased from 729 to 13,102 in just six years. St. Paul was in the midst of a transformation from 2 First Impressions T Olson_CH2_3rd.qxd 1/13/2004 2:21 PM Page 9 a small, frontier town, characterized by “frame houses and stubby business blocks,” to a city of often monumental structures, typifying America’s vision of itself during the expansionist era. The city continued to prosper even through the national depression of 1893.3 St. Luke’s signaled its intent to join the expansionist trend with the discussion of a new hospital at a Board of Trustees meeting in 1883.4 But the need for a new building went beyond civic competition. The hospital’s annual reports from this period indicate that the “old building,” which actually was not designed to be a hospital, had outlived its usefulness. It was described as “inadequate in all respects . . . dilapidated . . . (and) falling rapidly into decay.”5 Hospital officials were also interested in attracting additional patients.6 The annual report for 1889 explained, “This city is filled with young men living in blocks and boarding houses. . . . When sickness comes, remote from parents and friends, the ill results of poor nursing . . . would be theirs were it not for the presence of an institution which provides for them faithful nursing and kindly interest.”7 The hospital was located in an area where a concentrated number of railroad workers lived, the group to which the report referred. Many were 10 Chapter 2 Figure 1. “The New St. Luke’s,” 1915. From Minnesota Historical Society’s Collection #143.B.20.4(B), Box 8, United Hospital Records, Folder: Exterior Views, 1890–1915. Olson_CH2_3rd.qxd 1/13/2004 2:21 PM Page 10 recent arrivals, single men who had responded to an aggressive recruitment effort by prominent Minnesotans and the State Board of Immigration to get workers to build railroads, farmers to till the soil, and tradesmen to supply the farmers. To attract such individuals, the board published pamphlets in German, Swedish, Norwegian, Welsh, and other languages, and sent agents to American seaports and Europe to recruit immigrants. The success of the recruitment effort was born out by census figures that showed, from 1870 to 1920, two-thirds or more of Minnesota’s residents were foreign-born or the children of foreign-born parents.8 Thus, the human setting for St. Luke’s included a population that was rapidly expanding, increasingly diverse, and frequently cut off from family support. In trying to meet the health needs of this changing population, it was no accident that the trustees of St. Luke’s specified nursing in their 1889 annual report. That attention to nursing simply reflected the reality of health care near the turn of the century. Scientific medicine was in its infancy during this period and nursing was the primary service that hospitals had to offer.“Until the second quarter of this century,”a contemporary professor of...


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