Standing at the ready behind the nurses’ station is a dress-form displaying a white uniform dress and a blue wool cape, both worn by nurses at Sinai Hospital, Baltimore. Here’s a little more about the women who owned these pieces.
The uniform belonged to Isabelle M. Heyman Laub, R.N., member of the Sinai Hospital School of Nursing class of 1947. This starched white cotton dress with detached collar was made by Stein Uniform Co. of Baltimore; Nurse Laub added her name to the inside collar, probably so the correct uniform would be returned to her by the hospital laundry, and affixed an understated collar brooch and a Sinai Hospital pin to the dress.
The cape is of a slightly older vintage. It belonged to Ruth J. Herondorf Wohl, R.N., Sinai Hospital School of Nursing class of 1942; her initials are embroidered over the left inside pocket. It is made of heavy wool, dark blue with a gold lining; the stiff collar is embroidered “SH” on both sides. Like the dress, it was made locally by the Stein Uniform Company.
After graduation, Nurse Herondorf received a scholarship to continue her studies at Columbia University. She enlisted in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in 1945, when she was 24 years old. She was discharged a little over a year later, and went back to working at Sinai. She married Dr. Milton Wohl in 1947.
Like most uniforms, those worn by nurses – whether a long blue dress, colorful scrubs, or something in between – serve both a practical and a symbolic purpose. The attire should present a professional, standardized, and identifiable appearance… without interfering with the wearers’ physical duties. Nursing uniforms of the 19th and 20th centuries were based on a common vocabulary – dress, cap, apron, cape – with variances of color and décor to indicate the school and/or hospital in which the nurse was working, and the nurse’s professional level. A visitor to Beyond Chicken Soup, for example, commented that the shape of the starched white Sinai cap on display was familiar to her, but that her mother’s cap of similar vintage had included a blue band around the edge, indicative of another nursing school. Sinai nursing students wore light blue dresses with white collars and cuffs, while graduates wore the white dress that we have on display. Images of early 20th century nurses often show them in similar blue capes, but with different colored linings, and collar decorations specific to the nursing program.
You can read more about nurses’ uniforms at the National Library of Medicine’s website – A Universal Code:Nurse Uniforms of All Nations
Post by Collections Manager Joanna Church.
Lillian Wald was born on March 10, 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio, into a German-Jewish family. In 1878, her family moved to Rochester, New York, where she soon attended New York Hospital’s School of Nursing. She graduated in 1891, and began medical school at the Woman’s Medical College.
In 1893, Wald left medical school and began teaching nursing classes for poor families at the Hebrew Technical School for Girls. She soon began caring for residents of the Lower East Side of Manhattan as a visiting nurse, and soon after she founded the Henry Street Settlement. The organization provided health care services to New Yorkers, as well as social services and arts programs. The Henry Street Settlement still operates today, but has expanded to several buildings and locations since it was founded.
By 1913, the Henry Street Settlement had 92 staff members. While continuing to work at the Settlement, Wald started the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, a service that brought healthcare to the homes of those in need.
Lillian Wald supported a number of worthy causes. She advocated for putting nurses in public schools, and suggested a national health insurance plan. She assisted in founding the Columbia University School of Nursing, as well as the NAACP, and helped lead the National Child Labor Committee, a group that encouraged the implementation of child labor laws.
Wald died in 1940 at the age of 73. In 1970 she was elected into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans for her humanitarian acts throughout her life.
About her life:
- Lillian Wald http://www.henrystreet.org/about/history/lillian-wald.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/?referrer=http://www.henrystreet.org/about/history/lillian-wald.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
- Lillian Wald https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Wald
About the Visiting Nurse Service of New York:
About the Henry Street Settlement:
- Henry Street Settlement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Street_Settlement
- The House on Henry Street by Lillian Wald https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=gNYJAAAAIAAJ&rdid=book-gNYJAAAAIAAJ&rdot=1