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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Marian Perry Cruikshank and Service with the American Women's Hospitals in Serbia

More in this blog post on Portland surgical nurse Marian Perry Cruikshank, who worked with Esther Pohl Lovejoy at the Coffey Clinic group in Portland prior to the First World War and with the American Women's Hospitals from 1921-1924. One of the main primary sources we have about Cruikshank's service was her report to the American Women's Hospitals and the Medical Women's National Association (which sponsored the AWH) at the conclusion of four years of service in 1921, published as "American Women's Hospitals," Medical Woman's Journal 32, no. 2 (February 1925): 47-

Cruikshank went first to Serbia in 1921, serving with the feminist medical humanitarian relief organization the American Women's Hospitals, directed by Esther Lovejoy. "During my first year overseas," she wrote in her report, "I was in Serbia and worked under Dr. Eta Gray as her first assistant, and had charge of the surgical wards of her hospital. Three weeks after my arrival Dr. Gray sent me to Salonika to obtain supplies which had been given to us by the Red Cross people in Washington. The local Red Cross at Salonika not only gave me the supplies that had been ordered from Washington, which amounted to about one carload, but an additional two carloads, and I came home to Veles with three carloads of supplies, which pleased Dr. Gray very much." Cruikshank evidently had a strong knack with bureaucracies of all kinds, as an upcoming post will suggest.

The American Women's Hospitals Records are located at the wonderful Archives and Special Collections on the History of Women at the Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. An incredible image of Cruikshank and Dr. Etta Gray in their surgical scrubs in Veles, Serbia, is part of their online digital collections.

In her report of her work Cruikshank wrote with great feeling about the importance of the American Women's Hospitals and the meaning of her work with the organization to her own sense of identity, purpose and membership in a transnational group of women activists.

"The feeling of loyalty is a very strange thing. It is like being an American citizen. Here in the United States (she wrote, now home from 4 years of service) I thought nothing of it at all, but when Uncle Sam gave me a passport and said that he would back me up through thick and thin in any part of the world and I went forth, it suddenly became one of the greatest things in life to be an American citizen."

"I have had exactly the same experience with being a member of the American Women's Hospitals," she continued. "I went overseas fairly proud of the organization, but all through my first year, when there was no particular opposition and no danger to our organization, I still felt in a lukewarm way that it was a fine thing, but as soon as I got into the place where I realized that it was a matter of life and death to the organization that had given me my passport and had backed me up, I became 100 percent American Women's Hospitals."

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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanks to Susan Denning and Literary Arts in Portland for Session with Stacy Schiff

Last Thursday Susan Denning and the staff of Literary Arts in Portland hosted a conversation with biographer Stacy Schiff. It was a pleasure to be a part of this writers' forum event.

Schiff discussed her recent biography of Cleopatra and her Pulitzer Prize winning Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage, the biographer's craft, and the intersections of biography and women's history. I gained new insights from the questions posed by colleagues and appreciated the hour we shared in conversation about researching and writing biography.

Susan Denning has a post about the event on the blog Paper Fort.

Thanks Literary Arts, writing colleagues, and Stacy Schiff.