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Emeritus professor donates nursing history collection (Released: 12/19/950

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- An emeritus professor of nursing who once said she did not care for nursing history but went on to become an internationally recognized expert on the subject has donated a collection of archival materials to the University of Connecticut.

The materials donated by Josephine Dolan include letters and papers of Ella Louise Wolcott, a Civil War nurse who was related to Oliver Wolcott, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Among the Wolcott papers are letters documenting the care of soldiers during the war and autographed correspondence between Ella Wolcott and Dorothea Dix, a Massachusetts native known as a pioneer for reform in the treatment of the mentally ill.

Other materials in the collection include the papers of Effie Taylor, former president of the International Council of Nurses, and papers from the alumni association of the Connecticut Training School for Nurses in New Haven, established in 1873 as one of the first three schools in the United States independent of a hospital for the instruction of nurses.

Dolan arrived at UConn in 1944 as the first instructor in the newly founded School of Nursing, joining its only other faculty member, Dean Carolyn Ladd Widmer. When she heard that her initial teaching assignment included the history of nursing, she was taken aback.

"When I came to UConn to teach nursing the dean said, with that cute little twinkle in her eye, 'Oh and you'll also be responsible for nursing history,'" Dolan says. "And I thought 'What have I got myself into?'"

"Josephine told Dean Widmer she didn't care for history of nursing, but the dean wasn't impressed and said, 'Well, you will love it,'" says Eleanor Herrmann, a professor of nursing and long-time colleague of Dolan's.

"Then the dean told Josephine how her grandfather helped Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War and it made her realize Florence Nightingale was a living person," Herrmann says.

From this beginning Dolan, now in her 80's, went on to teach the history of nursing for more than 40 years and became an outspoken advocate for the collection of historical materials and for the study of nursing history.

"Professor Dolan helped keep nursing history alive through her writings and presentations at a time when it was being deleted from nursing curricula in favor of scientific content," Herrmann says. "It has been her dream to have an archive and a museum of nursing history, both to preserve nursing's heritage and to teach future members of the profession."

Dolan's materials will be the first holding on the history of nursing in the UConn archives, which specialize in the history of the University and of the state.

"We hope that this will be the first of many collections on nursing in Connecticut," says Bruce Stark, acting university archivist.

"There is no other central repository on Connecticut nursing history in the state," Herrmann adds. "There are bits and pieces throughout the state in hospitals, personal collections, or paper boxes, but there has never been anywhere to put them."

Herrmann says Connecticut has played a leading role in the development of education for nurses. "Connecticut has really been a cradle for nursing education in the country," she says. "There have been 41 different programs of nursing in the state, and the state has many firsts in nursing education."

Stark says the collection will be available to any researchers interested in the history of nursing, but is likely to be of particular interest to graduate students in UConn's new Ph.D. program in nursing.

The materials will be housed in UConn's new archives in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, where they will benefit from temperature and humidity controls specially designed to preserve historical items.

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