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Les trois soeurs: Trajectories of Rockefeller Foundation fellows at the Lyon Nursing School since the 1920s - Les trajectoires des boursières Rockefeller à l'École d'infirmières de Lyon et du Sud-Est à partir des années 1920.

An hidden legacy

Despite the shortcomings in the operation of the école d'infirmières et de visiteuses there was an enduring but hidden legacy of the fellowships given to the nursing school in Lyon.

Firstly, within the school itself, the fellows in charge of the health center kept their position from 1931 until the 1950s. This was the only place where the nursing cadre was stable. And, although they worked under the supervision of a physician, these nurses were in a position of responsibility in an important service of the school. It welcomed several thousand patients a year and it was the practical field of public health training for  every  nursing student at the school. Miss Courthial (1928 fellow) was still around in the 1940s and Miss Vallée (also a fellow in 1928) took over  as head of the Health Centre, which she directed until 1958. It was also a place with room to maneuver.  The public health activities that took place in the center had to be invented from scratch, and this invention took place mostly beyond the eyes and control of the hospital and its administrative and medical hierarchy. Ultimately, this was the field where the fellows were able to leave their mark and organize the practical teaching of the school students. Not surprisingly, this was also Crowell’s pride, and a subject of self-satisfaction for the Lyon direction staff. The school in Lyon, they said, was a unique case of a French nursing school that controlled its public health practical training field and therefore was able to implement its own guidelines for the nurse students.
Secondly, it should not be forgotten that the fellows who left the school used the insights of their training abroad to the benefit of other hospitals and public health organisations. In the early 1930s, Hélène Mugnier took over as directress of La Musse, near  Arnières sur Iton, one of the largest  sanatoriums in France. Mrs Fressenon directed several public health nursing services in the French provinces. Miss Bauer occupied  various public health positions, including the direction of the nursing service at the  Office d’Hygiène Sociale in Tunis, and the direction of the Social Insurance branch of the Mutualité Maternelle in Paris later in the 1950s. Mrs Denoël, a fellow initially assigned to become a directress in Lyon, also had creative opportunities when she became directress of a new Red Cross hospital in Paris.
By and large, though, the most important impact of the Rockefeller grants to nurses connected with the Lyon school was not the one expected. Especially from the point of view of the American nursing leaders and their Rockefeller sponsors, who were so keen to train educated and emancipated women that would become leaders of a new profession. Whereas the lay fellows and travellers tended to leave  the scene, the 12 religious sisters who held a fellowship, and the 3 chieftains who received travel grants, stayed in the Lyon hospitals until their death. Some were still active in the 1960s.Many sisters who received a fellowship or a travel grant were young, and had been chosen with an eye to their potential for leadership.  Their record is quite impressive by that measure.
Several played a major role within communities of sisters, and seem to have been recognized as group leaders: when the community of sisters of the new Édouard Herriot Hospital elected its ‘mother’ for the first time, in March 1938, 3 out of  the 4 candidates were former Rockefeller Foundation fellows or travelers. Most of the sisters who had received such support became ward supervisors and head nurses (cheftaines), often in the most prestigious services like the surgical ward of the new Édouard Herriot hospital. This was especially trues for the 11 nurses who went to England in 1925 and 1926. When they returned, they were installed in positions  as instructors in the school, or at/near the head of new model school services in children medicine and gynaecology. This  gave them a pivotal role in the practical instruction of student nurses until 1934, when the new hospital was opened. They trained a large number of nurses,  including not only the students from the school supported by the Foundation, but also dozens of other student nurses that came from private nursing schools in Lyon to get some practical training at the Hospices Civils hospitals.
In addition, they were a constant presence near the young religious nurses from the Lyon hospitals,  in the special model teaching service that was created for their use in 1927 or later in the dedicated noviciat-école created by no other than Sister Daudet. Besides, some religious fellows  also lectured in other nursing schools in France and beyond, as Sister Walter did at the Red Cross school and at the École Catholique  d’Infirmières in Lyon in the 1930s and 1940s, or Sister Daudet at the nursing school of Freiburg in Switzerland (see "Sister Daudet, or the great diversion" section).
Tennant and Crowell’s diaries are full of glimpses on the work of these former nursing nuns fellows during the years 1925-1935. Notwithstanding that they were certainly eager to stress how much the fellows were doing good work, their notes also suggest that the religious fellows became a moving force within the hospital. Especially by pressing the cause of training and education of the religious nurses to the hospital authorities, something Frances Elizabeth Crowell welcomed as a confirmation of her initial wager and advocated with those authorities .


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