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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Marian Perry Cruikshank -- Portland Origins for Transnational Medical Activism with the American Women's Hospitals

Portland's Esther Lovejoy, M.D. is a vital example of an activist nurtured in the Portland, Oregon Progressive Era matrix in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who built upon her local public health work in her subsequent career as a transnational activist. Her work with the feminist medical humanitarian relief organization the American Women's Hospitals spanned almost fifty years from 1919 to 1967.


But Lovejoy was not alone. Portland nurse and administrator Marian Perry Cruikshank joined Lovejoy's American Women's Hospitals and spent four years in Serbia and Greece from 1921-1925.

In this post, some information about Cruikshank's Portland years. 

Passport and death records indicate that she was born in 1882 in South Dakota and she came to Portland to pursue training in nursing. She attended the nursing school at St. Vincent's Hospital and graduated in 1914, twenty years after the school of nursing had been established there. 

Cruikshank's nursing education came at the time that Oregon nurses were professionalizing. Oregon passed legislation in 1911 to establish a process for examination and registration of nurses and created the Oregon State Board of Nurse Examiners. Cruikshank's cohort of graduates in 1914 was the first to take the exam for registration. The board tested them on "elementary anatomy, physiology, medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, surgery . . . dietetics, and home sanitation." ("An Act to Provide for and Regulate the Examination and Registration of Graduate Nurses," Oregon Laws 32 [1911] 48-52.) For more on nursing professionalism in Oregon for this period and after see Patricia Schechter, "The Labor of Caring: A History of the Oregon Nurses Association," Oregon Historical Quarterly 8 no. 1 (Spring 2007): 6-33.

The Pacific Coast Journal of Nursing 10, no. 9 (September 1914), 393 noted Cruikshank's graduation and registration with fifty other successful colleagues in Oregon:




Cruikshank went to work at the R. C. Coffey clinic and medical group practice in Portland as a surgical nurse. Esther Lovejoy was gynecological specialist there after 1913 and practiced with Coffey, T.M. Joyce, and C.E. Sears. Cruikshank was the "first assistant" nurse for Coffey for six years after her graduation. Portland was a leader in the public health movement in the years leading to the First World War with a visiting nurse association and a strong city health department (with Esther Pohl as health officer from 1907-1909). 

Esther Lovejoy took the chair of the American Women's Hospitals in 1919 and expanded the scope of this wartime all-female medical unit. Marian Cruikshank joined the group in 1921, in part, no doubt, because of her Portland work with Lovejoy. 



Her 1921 passport photograph from the National Archives shows a determined and thoughtful woman about to embark on a life-changing journey.




Two published sources chronicle Marian Cruikshank's work for the American Women's Hospitals in Serbia and Greece. The first is her four year report of service published in the Medical Woman's Journal in February 1925; the second is Esther Lovejoy's Certain Samaritans (1927, 1933). Over the next several posts I'll provide information about Cruikshank from these two sources, both of which emphasize the power of transnational work for women's empowerment.

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