Correspondence School Ephemera
Correspondence and short course schools are an interesting facet of nursing's history. These programs were the bane of the early professionalizers of nursing, people like Lavinia Dock, Isabel Hampton Robb, Sophia Palmer as well as superintendents of hospital based training schools.
Each is a money-making scheme, playing upon the credulity of its victims and imposing its graduates upon the public as qualified trained nurses (Kinney, 1905, p. 237).
Because there were no regulations on either nurses education nor licensure, correspondence courses such as the Chautauqua School of Nursing and the Chicago School of Nursing, flourished. Additionally there were short-term schools which sprang up across the country. In these "courses" women could become " trained nurses" in just a matter of months.
As both types of schools issued pins and caps and certificates the public was unable to distinguish between someone who studied at home or someone who labored through a two or three year hospital based program.
A 'trained nurse' may mean then anything, everything, or next to nothing, and with this state of affairs the results are far from what they should be, and public criticism is frequently justly severe upon our shortcomings, or else is content with superficiality where like meets like. This criticism falls both upon the woman herself and in upon the institution she represents. (Hampton, 1893, p. 35)
The registration laws will eventually protect the public - if it chooses to be protected; but how can we reach and save the mass of young women who are caught by wild assertions (Kinney, p. 229 )
Today the ephemera of these programs are highly collectible and range from print advertisements for the programs to the actual graduation certificates and photographs. Seen above is the complete manual for one of the correspondence courses, the Chicago School of Nursing. There are a total of 53 lessons, including self examination and mail-in test questions.
Clara Barton attended the graduation of the Philadelphia School for Nurses held at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia. As a non-nurse Miss Barton would not have been aware of the ten week school's reputation among hospital trained nurses.
Hampton, I.A. (1893). Educational standards for nurses. pp. 31-42. Hospitals, Dispensaries, and Nursing: Papers and Discussions in the International Congress of Charities, Correction & Philanthropy, Section III. Chicago June 12- 17, 1893. J.S. Billings, & H.M. Hurd (Eds.). Baltimore 1894.
Kinney, Dita H. (Jan. 1905). Some questionable nursing schools and what they are doing. American Journal of Nursing 5(4)224-9