Boston College Nursing II: Transitions, Traditions, and Reputations

As a part of their curriculum, BC nurses took liberal arts courses. The only problem was that because of the location of the Nursing School on Newbury, the best professors were more often than not unwilling to make the trip downtown to teach them. This was an obstacle the students found challenging not only in their time on Newbury, but once they arrived on campus as well. The male students were not kind to their new coeds, and school advertisements went so far as to pose female students as administrative assistants rather than intelligent women seeking degrees.[1]

copy-of-c-sports-letter-page-1

Boston College School of Nursing Correspondence Regarding Athletic Events, BC.2002.016, William L. Keleher, S. J., President’s Office Records, Box 2, Folder 3, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The struggles for female students did not end with poor teaching, taunting on campus, and false advertising. Girls on BC’s campus were relegated to off campus athletic facilities for personal use. What’s more, they were for a time banned from attending the men’s games, for fear of distracting the players on the competing teams and creating ruckuses within the stands.[2] Administrators on the Heights argued in letters over the ability of female students to attend games, and the morality of barring them when their tuition had a special fee for tickets to attend.

Also in line with sentiment at the time, higher education for women was still viewed with a negative stigma. Arguments against the Nursing program overall stemmed from the idea of the general public that nurses needed no further education beyond the rote skills to actually fulfill the role of a caretaker. According to this line of thinking from both the public and from sometimes bitter nurses trained without a college setting, a simple diploma program would suffice, no need for a legitimate degree. The difference at BC was the emphasis on leadership and nursing education, and these qualities along with those imbued by the liberal arts courses served to give BC nurses not only some of the best training, but also the best reputation in society. Countless thank you letters flowed in, praising the BC nurses for their skill and good manner.  One of particular note was from a representative for the National  Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which gave specific credit to the BC nurses for their

copy-of-c-sports-letter-page-2

Boston College School of Nursing Correspondence Regarding Athletic Events, BC.2002.016, William L. Keleher, S. J., President’s Office Records, Box 2, Folder 3, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

knowledge and care.[3]
Traditions began to form within the Nursing School, which merged the Jesuit roots of Boston College with the kinds of activities and practices normally found in nursing programs. Capping and pinning ceremonies were annual events for sophomores and seniors, respectively, and each was marked with a commemorative mass often celebrated by Archbishop Cushing.  These events were indicative of BC’s unique combination of Jesuit and nursing education, and were even written about in The Heights.[4] Accreditation for the school brought increased prowess and legitimacy to the school, official as of a letter dated December 4, 1952.[5]

Though some of the negative mindsets and problems dissolved over time, unfortunately the issue of the quality of professors for liberal arts courses persisted. In a February 3, 1970 letter to the editor in the student newspaper, The Heights, one student wrote regarding the disparity in quality between professors teaching liberal arts in the Nursing School versus those teaching the same or similar courses in the College of Arts and Sciences. The anonymous author wrote  “We are sick and tired of being forced into this position. We paid the same tuition and we demand a good liberal arts professor, rather than rejects of the other schools. For the quality of the liberal arts education we are receiving we might as well have gone to a diploma school. By forcing upon it poor quality of liberal arts education, B.C.S.N. is defeating its own goals.”[6] Despite overcoming numerous obstacles thus far, the nursing program and school had much more ground to cover in the coming years.

Copy of 6

Boston College Heights, February 3, 1970.

12

Boston College School of Nursing Correspondence Regarding Athletic Events, BC.2002.016, William L. Keleher, S. J., President’s Office Records, Box 2, Folder 3, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Megan Keating, BC ’15 and former Burns Library Reading Room Assistant

John J. Burns Library Collections Consulted

[1] “Making Our Place: A History of Women at Boston College,” Boston College, Accessed 20 October 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fufODzQPMg.

[2] Boston College School of Nursing Correspondence Regarding Athletic Events, BC 2002.016 William L. Keleher, S.J. President’s Office Records, Box 2, Folder 3.

[3] Boston College School of Nursing Correspondence Regarding Infantile Paralysis, BC 2002.016 William L. Keleher, S.J. President’s Office Records, Box 2, Folder 4.

[4] “Soph Nurses to Receive Caps at January Ceremony,” Boston College Heights,January 8, 1960, http://newspapers.bc.edu/cgibin/bostonsh?a=d&d=bcheights19600108.2.5&e=–i.—–en-20–1–txt-IN-vonnegut—-#,“Cardinal Present at Nursing School Last Formal Ceremony,” Boston College Heights, February 5, 1960, http://newspapers.bc.edu/cgibin/bostonsh?a=d&d=bcheights19600205&e=——-en-20–1–txt-IN-vonnegut—-.

[5] Boston College Office of the President, Letter of Accreditation, BC 2013.016 Joseph RN Maxwell, S.J. President’s Office Records, Box 6, Folder 8.

[6] “Nursing a Grudge,” Boston College Heights, February 3, 1970, http://newspapers.bc.edu/cgibin/bostonsh?a=d&d=bcheights19700203.2.36&srpos=6&e=——197-en-20-bcheights-1–txt-TI-nursing—-

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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