March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate, we are taking a look back at some of the remarkable female leaders who have walked the halls of Pennsylvania Hospital.

PAH’s Nursing Elite

Lucy Walker

Lucy Walker transformed nursing education not only at Pennsylvania Hospital but nationwide. As Matron and Superintendent of Nurses (1895-1907), Walker created a new era of discipline, efficiency, and nursing autonomy at PAH. She reorganized the hospital wards and developed a new training system for student nurses that included regular class schedules and lectures, and increased the course of training from two years to three years.

“Perhaps one of Walker’s greatest accomplishments was organizing an alumnae association,” said Stacey Peeples, lead historian and curator at PAH. “She recognized the need for an organization that would elevate and protect the character and interests of the nursing profession and would also promote feelings of unity and camaraderie among the Training School’s graduates.” 

Walker became a charter member of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools (1893) and the American Nurses’ Association (1917). 

Margaret Dunlop

Margaret Dunlop, director of Nursing from 1909-1993, is best known for her heroism during WWI. When the war broke out in Europe in 1914, Dunlap was among the first nurses to respond to the American Red Cross’ call for volunteers. She served as chief nurse of the American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly, France, just outside of Paris. Working with several physicians from Pennsylvania Hospital, she reorganized the nursing staff and introduced modern nursing procedures to the front.

“Her energetic personality combined with her courage and ready wit made her well suited as a war nurse,” Peeples said.

In 1917 she was named Chief Nurse of Pennsylvania Hospital’s Base Hospital No.10 in Le Treport, France, and recruited 65 nursing students and personnel to serve with her. She remained at Base Hospital No. 10 until the end of WWI. For her services overseas, Dunlop was awarded the Royal Red Cross, First Class British and received a citation from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. She was also the first woman to have her portrait commissioned by PAH.

As director of the School of Nursing, Dunlop greatly expanded the training program, building a new nurses’ home on campus and increasing the amount of training and work hours her students received. She also increased the nursing staff from 60 to 115 students with 20 affiliate nurses and 38 head nurses.

By 1931, a total of 786 nursing students had graduated from the school.  Of these, 528 had been pupils of Dunlop.

Helen Grace McClelland

Helen Grace McClelland perhaps more than any other single person, shaped the nursing school and nursing services at Pennsylvania Hospital,” Peeples said.

As director of nursing from 1944-1956, she instituted shorter working hours for nurses, developed accelerated nursing courses to meet nursing shortages, and broadened courses of study for four-year college programs.  Under her leadership, the school became a nationally accredited program and its consistently high standards reflected her leadership.

McClelland is also widely recognized for her accomplishments as a WWI nurse. She served with Margaret Dunlop in both Paris and Le Treport, France. In 1917, she was sent forward for duty at No. 16 British Casualty Clearing Station near the Belgian front.

During a German air raid in August 1917, McClelland saved the life of her tent-mate, Beatrice MacDonald, the first American nurse to be wounded in WWI. Under heavy enemy fire, instead of seeking shelter for herself, McClelland acted quickly to stop the hemorrhaging of her colleague’s wounds. For this act of bravery, she later received a citation from General Sir Douglas Haig, the Royal Red Cross First Class from Britain, and the Distinguished Service Cross from the United States. At that time, she was one of only three women to have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, America’s second-highest medal.

While McClelland didn’t return to the front during WWII, in 1940 she organized the nursing component of Evacuation Hospital No. 52, and recruited 43 nurses, mostly from Pennsylvania Hospital, to serve in New Caledonia, a French island in the Coral Sea. She also studied ways to relieve nursing shortages during WWII and created professional and educational opportunities for minority women well before such practices became the norm.

Today, the McClelland conference room is dedicated to her many contributions to nursing at PAH.

Auxiliary Women

Another group of influential women of PAH’s past is the many volunteers that served the hospital as part of the Women’s Auxiliary of Pennsylvania Hospital.

From its roots that began with the formation of the Board of Assistants for the Internal Management of the Hospital in the 1820s to its rebirth as the Ladies Committee in 1865 to its final iteration as the official  Women’s Auxiliary of the Pennsylvania Hospital formed in 1947, these committees of women have dedicated countless volunteer hours to fundraise for construction projects and other hospital improvements, inspect and expand the grounds, offer social services, and establish a library and distribute literature to patients.

The Auxiliary disbanded in 2015, but there is no mistaking the dedication and commitment so many individuals have made over the years to the group. 

“Their time, talents and treasure were shared freely with the Pennsylvania Hospital community to make it a better, stronger, healthier, place to be; truly creating an atmosphere where a patient wants to be a patient, where physicians want to practice medicine, and employees want to work,” Peeples said.

Sneak Peek: WWI Exhibit Coming in November 2017

A new exhibit at PAH will highlight the hospital’s involvement in World War I, including the pivotal role our nurses played in both our success abroad and our continued efforts to care for those on the home front. 

While PAH nurses and physicians were in Europe, the hospital staff in Philadelphia was at about half-strength. With limited staff, the hospital was still responsible for caring for its usual patients, as well as a large number of convalescing sailors filling the wards. In October 1918, the worldwide influenza epidemic struck the hospital. The already depleted nursing staff was hit hard -- 52 nurses became ill and four died. Through all the drama, Pennsylvania Hospital continued to care for those in need and came through the experience stronger.

The exhibit will be on display inside the PAH Historic Library beginning in November 2017. 

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