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From the Rush Archives: St. Luke's Hospital, The Woman's Board Fashion Show, and World War II

by Nathalie Wheaton on 2020-07-02T14:26:00-05:00 in History, Nursing | 0 Comments

In honor of the 4th of July, enjoy this image from the cover of the program from the 1943 annual St. Luke’s Hospital Woman’s Board Fashion Show featuring a St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing student saluting the American flag.

When thinking of a possible photo or blog post for this 4th of July, this program cover immediately sprang to mind. But, as always, there is a lot more to this story. Want to take a deeper dive?

What is St. Luke’s Hospital and what is its connection to Rush?

What was the Woman’s Board Fashion Show?

And what was going on at the hospital and nursing school during World War II?

What is St. Luke’s Hospital and what is its connection to Rush?

St. Luke’s Hospital, founded in 1864, is a predecessor hospital of Rush. For most of its history, St. Luke’s stood on the 1400 blocks of S. Michigan and S. Indiana Avenues in the South Loop, where its buildings remain today, mostly converted to condominiums over the years.

St. Luke’s Hospital, along with its School of Nursing and Woman’s Board, merged with Presbyterian Hospital in the 1950s to become Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital. The merger was completed in 1958, and staff and students moved to the Presbyterian Hospital campus on the West Side, where Rush still stands today.

The Rush Archives holds the records of St. Luke’s Hospital and its nursing school*. (Visit the Rush Archives website to learn more about St. Luke's!)

What is the story of the Woman’s Board Fashion Show?

The Woman’s Board Fashion Show, a hospital fundraiser that was initiated by the Woman’s Board of St. Luke’s Hospital in 1927, continued throughout the merger with Presbyterian Hospital and, later, the development of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center (now Rush University Medical Center.)

For more information about the history of the Woman’s Board Fashion Show and how it helped support the mission of the hospitals over ninety years, enjoy this Rush InPerson blog post from 2016

And to explore more Woman’s Board Fashion Show records, including scrapbooks, programs, and posters dating back to 1927, visit our online collection.

From the November 1943 issue of St. Luke’s News:

CAPTION: Mrs. John S. Schweppe, the lovely bride of the Fashion Show, with two of her bridesmaids, Miss Kay Lyons and Miss Adrienne Ely. Mrs. Schweppe, a recent bride herself, is the wife of Dr. Schweppe, St. Luke’s intern, and serves two days a week as a Red Cross Nurses’ Aide at St. Luke’s. On the day after the Show, she was on duty in St. Luke’s wards, in the trim blue and white uniform of the Red Cross Volunteer Nurses’ Aide.

"The St. Luke’s Woman’s Board gave its first wartime fashion Show at the Civic Opera House on October 28. The parade of beautiful clothes thrilled the many guests as did the grand finale of St. Luke’s nurses, volunteer workers and representatives of the armed forces. The proceeds, of course, went toward the support of the Social Service Departments. These clinics maintain free or low cost medical care for all needy citizens of Chicago who come to St. Luke’s. Not perhaps as dramatic as war relief, this service is as necessary, and has been a vital part of our community life for many years."

How did World War II affect the hospital and its staff and students?

For a glimpse into their world, peruse the pages of St. Luke’s News. St. Luke’s News, a monthly newsletter for the St. Luke’s community, includes wonderful stories and photographs.

The 1943 issues of St. Luke’s News include several stories of medical, nursing, and other staff joining the war effort in various ways.

"The Red Cross is short 150 nurses for its Illinois quota this month, because so many nurses are being sent overseas for active duty, leaving vacancies in military hospitals here."

"One hundred and fifty-six of the three hundred and eighteen students now enrolled in St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing are members of the U.S. Cadet Corps. The nursing profession, America’s No. 1 woman-power shortage, has been officially recognized by the passage of the Bolton Act, which provides for the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. Under the terms of this Act, the U.S. Public Health Service is able to finance nursing education for qualified students to assist in meeting the nursing shortage."

Sometimes the personal stories of individuals connected to St. Luke’s Hospital during this time can help us appreciate how so many lives were affected by the War and in so many ways.

CAPTION: "Familiar faces left St. Luke's in December [1942] to serve our country." These hospital employees included members of the pharmacy, desk staff, receiving, oxygen therapy, and a mail clerk.

A member of the St. Luke’s medical staff, Lt. Col. Joseph L. Stettauer, was the first member of the medical staff to die in service during World War II. While on leave in Chicago, he “had visited the hospital shortly before his death to greet his many friends and had seemed well and happy. However, he suffered a heart attack the next day and died within a few hours.” Col. Stettauer was also a Rush Medical College alumnus and trained at Johns Hopkins and in Dublin, Ireland. He had joined the Illinois National Guard twenty-three years prior and at the time of his death was commandant of the aviation cadet selection board at Winson-Salem, NC.

Laura Tranby, Social Service, sent in a letter from Dallas Boynton, St. Luke’s graduate, reporting that she has safely arrived ‘somewhere in North Africa’ and is settled in a French village. It is cold and rainy as they are near the coast. She found the sea trip extremely interesting and their accommodations were excellent, with good food.”

Dan Donahue, formerly an elevator boy, writes from Central Africa that it is quite different from good old Chicago, and the natives like to scar and cut their faces for decorative purposes. Dan says, ‘I hope that things at the hospital are moving along as well as possible under the circumstances. War sure has an awful effect on everything and everybody. I never mind the long hours I have as I do my best to get the war over with as soon as possible. I have traveled quite a bit but have never seen a hospital that can compare with St. Luke’s.’”

To learn more about the history of Rush or the Rush Archives collections, please visit our website or contact the archivist, Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS.

*St. Luke’s Hospital Records, #4704, and related online collections

*St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing Records, #4765, and related online collections

*Woman’s Board Records, #4766, and related Fashion Show records online


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