Last night, I attended the Wilkes-Barre General Alumni Association Class of 1958 Reunion and I was awed by the accomplishments of these women. As part of my responsibilities, I maintain the nursing history collection for Misericordia University. All week, I had been planning to attend the reunion as a guest of Mrs. Nancy Dwyer and as a representative of the University. Little did I know my own connection to the ladies I would meet.
While making some last minute preparations for the reunion, I found 6 large folders full of pictures labeled “Unidentified People, No Date.” So I started looking at the photographs (some going back as far as the 1800s) and, lo and behold, there was a picture of my husband’s aunt standing in her white nurse’s uniform with 3 other nurses in front of the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital sign.
Last night, I shared my find with the women and men gathered there and I let them know how honored I was to be connected to them (even if it is through marriage). These women were amazing. They had gone off to college and worked year around for 3 years to obtain nursing certificates. Later when they married and had children, many of them gave up their careers and became stay-at-home moms until their children were older. Upon returning to the workforce (often times 13 to 15 years after leaving), they went on to get their Bachelors, Masters and, in some cases, PhDs.
Most amazing though was the time I got to spend with a graduate from the class of 1942! No one knew she would be there so we weren’t prepared. One of her relatives asked me if I could get a book from the archives from her class, so I called security and was able to obtain the book. This woman was sharp as a tack and shared all sorts of amusing and enlightening stories about her time as a nursing student at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
By the end of the evening, one of the attendees had donated her nurse’s cape, several caps, two uniforms and an apron to the nursing collection.