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Fashionable nurses at the Mount in the late 1950s and early 1960s

Written by Victoria McCargar, University Archivist

Fans of the British series Call the Midwife love the nurses’ immaculate light-blue uniforms with maroon caps, matching sweaters, and a jaunty a secret-agent-style gray trench coat.

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Bicycling midwives in their smart East End nursing uniforms. (Photo taken from The Mount Archives blog)

That era, the late 1950s and early 1960s, must have been the Golden Age of nursing fashion, because Mount students in the same decade had their own unique outfits – a crisp grey shirtwaist dress with thin white stripes, covered by a starchy white pinafore and topped off by the official MSMC nurses’ cap, presented during the annual capping ceremony at Commencement time.

But the most wonderful part, the pièce de résistance, had to be the dashing thigh-length navy cape with bright red lining.

These were made of a heavy wool (think Navy peacoat) and had a standup collar with M.S.M.C. embroidered in shiny gold. A chain at the back allowed it to be hung on a hook without damaging the fabric.

Unlike the midwives of Nonnatus House, Mount nurses probably never made their speedy rounds on bicycles in their capes, and if they had they would have roasted in the heavy wool. But what an impressive sight they would have made!

Thanks to Alanna Madrid ’15 in the Alumnae Relations Office, we recently acquired for the Archives a cape in perfect condition that was worn by a member of the Class of 1953 — only the second baccalaureate nursing class in California history. Another alumna donated her dress, pinafore and cap several years ago, so we now have the complete ensemble from the first years of MSMU’s nursing department. Stop by for a visit – there’s more to archives than papers and photos!

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Collar detail of the Mount nurse’s cape. (Photo taken from The Mount Archives blog)

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this story! I have always been intrigued by the nursing uniform and its evolution. So cool to see our foremothers marching proudly down our steps!

    Like

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