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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.

Sister Daudet, or the Great Diversion

Sister Claudia Daudet’s itinerary was the most outstanding among the former fellows. It underlines how much the religious nurses who received fellowships turned out to be carriers of renewed nursing procedures within the nursing cadre of the Lyon hospitals.
Claudia Marie Geneviève Daudet was born in Villeurbanne, an industrial suburb of Lyon, in 1893. According to the family tree established by a relative on Geneanet, her father worked for the city toll  and her mother was a seamstress. This modest background explains why  Daudet  had to interrupt her secondary school education because of her mother’s illness in 1907. During World War 1, she served as a Red Cross nurse in the hospitals that blossomed in Lyon, than a major platform for treating the wounded. She  subsequently joined the community of Lyon hospital sisters, in 1918. She received her secondary school certificate in 1918 with flying colours, and graduated as a midwife in 1920- midwifery, at that time, was the highest course of study among the Lyonese sisters). Despite this educational record,  Sister Daudet's fate was to remain an ordinary nurse until she would have reached an age where positions of seniority would have been offered to her. Such were the rules of the community, even if she was likely considered an exceptional subject.

This seems to have been the case considering the circumstances when  she was selected for a fellowship in 1924. She was chosen despite the fact that she had not yet taken her formal vows with the nursing community, and although she had not followed the courses of the new École d’infirmières et de visiteuses du Sud-Est as some of her co-fellows. Her sojourn in England would change her trajectory.

Miss Monk, at the Royal London Hospital, signaled the sisters' achievements to Elizabeth Crowell. The written account did not single Daudet out, but her subsequent career established her a  the main educational figure within the community of sisters at the Lyon hospitals. As soon as she returned from the London Hospital in 1925, Daudet was put in charge of organizing a school service in gynaecology, serving as deputy for Sister Grimard, another returing fellow. This was the first ward where the mixed religious and lay student body of the École d’infirmières et de visiteuses sociales de Lyon et du Sud Est   were trained according to conditions established by the school directress Hélène Mugnier, which included the presence of trained supervisors. Daudet worked there as an instructor and adjunct head nurse until 1927, before taking over a similar assignment in a school service established in a pediatric surgery ward, for training only novice religious nurses. This was a quick stint, and the same year  she took over as  instructor for the surgery course at the École, before a brief service as head nurse in the typhoid service of the Hospital during the 1929 epidemics. She then returned to educational work in the Spring of 1929, in replacement of the London black sheep, sister Montélimart. 

Since then, she served successively as supervisor, second instructor and first instructor at the École d’infirmières et de visiteuses sociales de Lyon et du Sud-Est. After Professor Lépine had exhausted yet another directress in 1931, Sister Daudet stepped forward as acting director from 1931 to 1933 and carried the school on her shoulders, although the overwhelming majority of the students were lay students. She  left in 1933 when Miss Roberti took charge. From then onwards, she was in charge of a new preparatory nursing school dedicated to the young girls who entered the community of religious nurses  (noviciat-école).

All that time,  Daudet never ceased to be in touch with the Foundation nursing officers. She, just like so many  fellows or recipiendaries of travel grants,  was regularly visited by or in correspondence with Frances Elizabeth Crowell and her Paris team: information, advice and affection were exchanged. The only existing picture of the Lyon religious fellows of 1925, now lost, was in fact taken by Crowell during her visit to London and ended up on the walls of Mary Beard’s New York office. Together  with some correspondence and frequent mentions in the Foundation officers'diaries, its existence offers a clue of the durable ties between the officers and the Lyon nuns. Daudet herself never failed to mention her American acquaintances how important her fellowship had been, although we do not know exactly how this experience had been actually appropriated and shaped  her work as instructor or her conception of nursing.
When Sister Daudet was put in charge of the new preparatory school for the young religious nurses, the community of sisters had  just begun  to settle in the new Hospital. Then  again Crowell and her assistant Mary Elizabeth Tennant were kept in the loop. This preparatory school, the noviciat-école, was to welcome the young novices and equip/select  them before their possible entry into the École d’infirmières et de visiteuses sociales where they would follow the theoretical courses to get the State diploma in hospital nursing. But for the Hospices Civils leadership, itwas more than a preparatory school : Daudet was in charge of creating a new brand of religious nurses. Alarmed by diminishing  enrolment since the beginning of the 20th century, the management of the Hospices Civils had decided it was crucial to keep religious nursing alive as long as possible, both because of the small cost of this workforce and of the appreciation of the sisters' dedication and obedience.

The sisters to be turned out by the noviciat école were not to be the usual rank and file nurses that had been recruited since the 18th century, though. They should be the cream of religious nursing, and  become head nurses and deputy head nurses with a mission to maintain the moral and financial value of religious nursing within the different hospitals of the city. Besides, the nurses who would exit the noviciat  école would not abide to specific loyalties to the nursing communities of the different hospital houses in Lyon, which until then were single-handedly responsible for their education and maintenance. They would share a common spirit, be loyal to a single administrative, religious and medical authority, and live up to a uniform professional and religious discipline. In other words, they would combine a high level of technical skills with the religious dedication and the spirit of obedience so dear to Hospices administrators and medical practitioners. Interestingly enough, these views had been expressed by the priests in charge of the religious direction of the sisters as early as 1924, following a travel to England which Elizabeth Crowell had organized to convince them that sending sisters to London was safe morally, and beneficial for the Lyon hospitals (read their full memorandum here). Until 1953, and despite her declining health from the early 1940s, the prep school was Sister Daudet’s domain.

She also acted a guest lecturer in religious nursing schools elsewhere in France or in French-speaking Switzerland, attended the Congrès International du Comité International Catholique des Infirmières et Assistantes Médico-Sociales in 1933 and participated in the activities of the Union Catholique des Services Sociaux de santé, a Catholic professional association that had a strong nursing nucleus. In such surroundings, as during the 1939 conference of the Union Catholique, she emphasized the necessity of increasing efforts for a more systematic training of  religious nurses. This impact into the sphere of religious nursing was not in the Foundation prospect when it began its nursing work in Lyon, and might even have escaped their gaze when they evaluated the record track of its nursing  program. But it was certainly the most enduring consequence of nursing fellowships provided to the Lyon school.
In 1946, while Europe and France lived under food and provision shortages, Mary ElizabethTennant would ask the Paris Office of the Rockefeller Foundation to send clothes and food to Daudet, for distribution at the Lyon school of nursing. The sisters were then the only link that still connected the Rockefeller Foundation to the Lyon school. They would soon wane from the landscape of hospitals in Lyon (the last religious nuns left the wards during the 1980s), but it was a durable if unwilling effect of Rockefeller fellowships that their presence and ceremonies endured until the  1960s in the Lyon hospitals.The three sisters in the background of the 1928 photograph at the top of this essay was taken to illustrate the growth of the École and its lay pupils: it utlimately underlines the most salient and long-lasting results of the support provided to the Lyon school by the Rockefeller Foundation through its fellowships.

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