Dr. Jean Richardson is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Social Studies Education at Buffalo State College, State University of New York. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in Social History at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Dr. Richardson specializes in American Women’s history, US Immigration/Ethnicity, Local and regional history, and New York State history. She is the coordinator of the Monroe Fordham Regional History Center. She has published in Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, Encyclopedia of New York State, as well as contributed to works of collected essays on medical social history.2005 0-7734-6035-7
In 1848, the Sisters of Charity founded and operated the first hospital in the city, Buffalo Hospital of the Sisters of Charity (Sisters Hospital). The general historical literature has dismissed Catholic hospitals as ethnic hospitals. Too little attention has been paid to the role these hospitals have played in the “new” antebellum commercial cities and in the transition of medicine to its modern practice; nor has the role of women in 19th century hospital management received much attention. This study will analyze how the sister administrators/nurses gained and maintained control of their hospital and exercised “real” authority, within the context of patriarchy, and throughout the 19th century transformation of medical practice. By focusing on the development of Sisters Hospital from 1848-1900, one can trace the transformation of antebellum hospitals from warehouses of the poor sick to the post Civil War emergence of the modern hospital. The story of Sisters Hospital is also the story of changes in the role of physicians, nurses and in medical care, that is, the professionalization and modernization of the health care. By 1900, Sisters Hospital had survived and adapted to the tremendous changes in medical knowledge and the function of hospitals without destroying the orders’ authority over its hospital.