Tag Archives: Nurse

No Pockets? No Problem!

5 Feb

During Isabella’s lifetime women dressed modestly. Their clothing covered them from head to toe, with high collars at their necks, long sleeves that extended to their wrists, and skirts with hemlines that brushed the floor.

An 1877 reception gown (from the Minnesota Historical Society)

With so much of the body covered, a new gown—even one with a simple design—was a big investment. The average dress in 1900 took eight to twelve yards of fabric to construct.

This day dress from 1882 illustrates how much fabric a dress required.

But even with all that fabric, women’s gowns lacked one essential convenience modern women today take for granted: pockets.

The slim silhouette of a 1913 ladies’ gown left no room for pockets.

When you think about all the things we carry in our pockets—from keys and eye glasses to reminder notes and smart phones—it’s hard to imagine life without those small but handy additions to our shirts, skirts, and pants.

Ladies fashions in 1900, from The Designer magazine.

So how did Isabella and other women of her time carry around small but necessary objects so they were always close at hand?

They used a chatelaine.

A chatelaine was a piece of jewelry with chains from which accessories were hung.

Some chatelaines were ornate and expensive; others were purely practical.

If you watched episodes of the TV show “Downton Abbey,” you may have seen Downton’s housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, wearing a plain and utilitarian chatelaine.

From her chatelaine she suspended a few essentials she probably used regularly throughout the day in such a large household: a small pair of scissors, and keys to the silver closet, perhaps, or maybe the wine cellar.

Some women customized their chatelaine for a specific purpose. For example, a seamstress or a mother who regularly found herself mending her children’s clothes might accessorize her chatelaine with needles, thread, and other sewing essentials.

This chatelaine carried (from left to right) scissors with a protective sheath, a scent bottle. sewing kit, and a whistle.

Inside the sewing kit was a dowel with thread, a small thimble, and a cylinder for holding needles.

Here’s another example of a silver-plated chatelaine customized with five sewing tools:

It was accessorized with a needle holder, a thimble, a pin cushion in the shape of a book, a tape measure, and a scissor sheath.

Artist Franz von Defregger depicted a chatelaine in his painting, The Letter (1884).

The chatelaine below was accessorized for a nurse, and contains (left to right) a pencil, an ivory notepad, pill box, scissors, tape measure, and a whistle.

A nurse’s chatelaine (from Wikimedia.org).

Scent bottles were common components of a lady’s chatelaine. Because women’s corsets often left them short of breath or feeling faint from heat or exertion, a small bottle of smelling salts was essential.

A silver and crystal perfume bottle from an 1898 chatelaine.

Sometimes women filled the bottles with perfume, which they held to their nose to ward off foul odors that were common at a time before deodorants and reliable sewer systems. In such cases, these bottles were often called “vinaigrettes.”

A whistle was another common accessory. Since well-mannered ladies never raised their voices, even in times of danger or emergency, a whistle was the best way for a woman to summon help.

Many women added small bags to their chatelaines. Made of metal mesh, fabric or leather, they held handkerchiefs, coins, and eye glasses.

A silver and leather chatelaine bag from Tiffany and Co. (courtesy of MetMuseum.org).

During Isabella’s lifetime, chatelaines were popular enough to draw criticism and comedy. One newspaper lamented the number of chatelaine accessories women were willing to wear, and printed this illustration of a wife who went a little overboard with her accessories:

The same publication poked fun at mothers who over accessorized their chatelaines:

But chatelaines came in all shapes and sizes. The lady in the photo below is dressed for the out of doors; her short chatelaine looks like a piece of jewelry and is accessorized with a watch and a whistle, among other things.

While many chatelaines were clipped to a woman’s belt or waistband, some small chatelaines were designed to be worn as a brooch. The young woman in the photo below is wearing a small chatelaine accessorized with a dainty little scent bottle.

Ladies in Isabella’s circle also used chatelaines. Here’s a photograph of Isabella and her family members at Chautauqua Institution. Seated left to right are Isabella’s husband Dr. Alden, Isabella, Mrs. Christensen, Isabella’s sister Julia Macdonald, Grace Livingston, and Dr. Hannah B. Mulford. Standing are Miss May Williamson and Isabella’s son Raymond.

A closer look at Julia and Miss Williamson shows that both ladies were wearing small chatelaines, although it’s difficult to make out what accessories they wore.

What do you think of chatelaines? Would you wear one?

If you had a chatelaine, what kind of accessories would you have?

A final note: Not all chatelaines were metal. An 1894 issue of The Youth’s Companion magazine published a simple pattern for a chatelaine you can make from fabric and ribbon. Click on the image below to see a larger version of the instructions.

 

You Can Be a Nurse. Yes, You!

20 Feb

“Nurse” was a word that figured often in Isabella Alden’s novels, but not all her nurses were created equal.

In some of her stories, “nurse” was another term for a nanny—a woman who took care of young children.

Nurse and baby, about 1910.

That was the case for Miss Rebecca Meredith in Wanted, who hired herself out as a “nurse-girl” after she applied for the job listed in this newspaper ad:

Wanted—A young woman who has had experience with children, to take the entire care of a child three years of age. Call between the hours of four and six, at No. 1200 Carroll Avenue.”

In other novels, like The Older Brother, nurses were everyday people who knew what to do whenever illness struck, like Aunt Sarah:

Aunt Sarah proved herself a veritable angel of mercy. She was able to lay aside her brusqueness and her sarcasms, and become the skillful practical nurse, taking her turn and indeed more than her turn with the others, and compelling the anxious mother to take such rest as she needed.

Aunt Sarah and Rebecca Meredith developed their nursing skills through practical experience, and a history of caring for neighbors and family members who were ill.

But when Helen Betson’s father fell ill in Echoing and Re-echoing, the doctor insisted on securing the services of a “professional nurse,” which threw Helen into days of anxious waiting:

If she could have done a share of the nursing—but they had been forced to employ a professional nurse who shared the task with her mother, so that it was only now and then a little service that Helen was permitted to do; and she grew weary of the long waiting that seemed so purposeless.

In Isabella’s lifetime, it was common for physicians to train their own nurses, but they often found it difficult to find candidates who already possessed basic knowledge of human anatomy, nursing science, and mixing medicines.

A young nurse in the 1890s.

The best candidates were trained in a hospital setting, but hospital training programs had drawbracks:

Most programs had age limits that disqualified women who were middle-aged and older.

The coursework took years, and tuition was expensive at a time when there was no such thing as tuition assistance or student financial aid.

Portrait of a graduating class circa 1890.

The programs tended to attract only local students because the best teaching hospitals were in large American cities where the high cost of living proved a barrier to outsiders.

Fees charged by graduates of hospital programs meant their services were unaffordable for the majority of Americans, especially those in rural areas of the country, so nursing school graduates tended to live and practice in larger cities.

Four nurses at Samaritan Hospital, Sioux City, Iowa, about 1910.

The result: America had a great shortage of competent, trained registered nurses. Dr. Everett mentioned the problem in Isabella’s novel, Workers Together:

Professional nurses are good when you can get them. It is unfortunate that they are especially scarce just now. I have been on the look-out for one all the morning without success.

Graduates of Roots Memorial Hospital nursing program, Arkansas, about 1908.

A New Yorker named Cyrus Jones decided to do something about it. Because he lived very close to Chautauqua Institution, he was familiar with the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. The CLSC conducted first-class four-year college degree courses via correspondence. He was certain nurses could be trained using the same methods. He said:

There must be many thousands of bright, earnest women, young and old, who would be nurses if they could learn the profession without going to a hospital. Other branches of knowledge are taught by mail and learned at home. . . . Why not nursing?

An advertisement in Christian Nation magazine, 1915.

Mr. Jones launched the Chautauqua School of Nursing in 1900, and it was immediately successful. Over 200 students enrolled the first year.

Unlike other schools, Chautauqua School of Nursing did not have age limits, welcoming many women who were denied admission to other schools because of their age.

The administrative offices for the Chautauqua School of Nursing in Jamestown, New York.

Since the enrollment fee was only $75.00, women who intended to work as professional nurses knew they would soon earn back that cost because they would earn between $10.00 and $35.00 a week as a registered nurse after graduation.

A young woman’s nursing school graduation photo, undated.

But the highest enrollment came from students who lived in rural and isolated areas where conventional hospital training schools didn’t exist.

A 1913 newspaper ad.

Like the hospital-based schools, the Chautauqua School of Nursing bestowed upon its graduates its own pins, caps, and certificates.

A 1913 diploma (from Flickr).

In every respect, its graduates appeared to have the same training and cachet as graduates of hospital programs. The public couldn’t tell the difference.

From the Columbus Weekly Advocate (Columbus, Kansas), November 27, 1913.

They also employed a very unique marketing tactic: They advertised their students.

The school used their real students as models in their print ads in magazines and newspapers.

Print ad for Chautauqua School of Nursing, 1915.

And if a prospective student was unsure whether or not she should enroll in the course, she had only to write the school.

Three Chautauqua nursing graduates, 1910.

In return, the school would provide the prospective student with the name and address of the graduates closest to her, with an invitation to contact any one of them to get more information about the school, the teaching curriculum, and what graduates’ lives were like as professional nurses.

Chautauqua school advertisement, 1909.

By 1910 the school had bestowed diplomas upon 12,000 nursing students; the class of 1911 alone exceeded 3,000 enrollees.

In all respects, the school was a success. Because of the Chautauqua School of Nursing, hundreds of communities had a trained, reliable nurse for the first time . . .

. . . and thousands of women entered into a respected profession that helped their communities, and produced a steady income for themselves.

Click on a book cover to learn more about Isabella Alden’s novels mentioned in this post.

    

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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