STOWERS, Jessie A. (1865-1948)

Small Archive of Ephemera and Material Documenting her Nursing Career and Time as Superintendent of Gouverneur Hospital, 1895-1921

This archive highlights the life of a remarkable nurse at two New York City hospitals, City Hospital on Blackwell Island [now Roosevelt Island] and the Lower East Side’s Gouverneur Hospital at the turn of the 20th century. Jessie A. Stowers, born and raised in Waddington, New York, wanted a different career from her three teaching sisters, so she moved to New York City to pursue nursing. She graduated in 1892 from the nursing program on Blackwell Island and continued to work at City Hospital until her position as Superintendent of Gouverneur Hospital in 1895.

The archive includes a photo album compiled during Stowers's time working as a nurse on Blackwell's Island (ca. 1894), containing 34 black-and-white images. Images include the nurses' residence, patient wards, patients in beds, one showing seven small babies in the same bed, groups of nurses, a classroom with a papier-mâché anatomical model, a few architectural photos of the outside of City Hospital, and an early photograph of the old Gouverneur Hospital with a horse-drawn ambulance parked outside, among many others. The archive also includes an album containing over 80 letters from her Gouverneur Hospital colleagues (mostly doctors) thanking her for her service with short notes and a promise of usually a $5 donation for a retirement gift. There is at least one note from a former patient’s relative thanking her. The archive further consists of Stowers's signed personal copy of the Hospital Formulary of the Department of Public Charities and Correction of the City of New York (1886), a cabinet card of Stowers and her sisters in youth, two photos of Stowers holding a set of newborn triplets, a photo of Dr. Rex S. Clements (President of the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the US), two photos taken of her award of appreciation upon retirement from the Board of Trustees at Gouverneur Hospital, a small group of ancestral family papers, a handwritten letter to Dr. L. Stowers (paternal grandfather, physician in Waddington, NY) from Dr. J. S. Hawley giving samples and advice on his new peptine that he wants him to try with patients and sell to “druggists”, a small leather bifold wallet, and two pairs of Stowers's eyeglasses in a case.

During Jessie Stowers' time as a nurse, she saw some of the nation’s first nursing programs being created (City Hospital’s program was the fourth, having opened in 1877), nursing education and care becoming standardized, and the unionization of nurses in order to advocate for change in public health. Stowers was also there when Gouverneur Hospital assigned the first female ambulance physician, Dr. Emily Barringer. As superintendent, Stowers oversaw the hospital's shift from specializing in accident cases for the neighborhood with 40 beds, three full staff, and only one visiting physician and surgeon to a brand new building with four wards, 104 beds, six doctors, 11 nurses, and an X-Ray machine. An early attempt at preventative medicine, the new building was designed with a rounded edge, as it was believed that tuberculosis and other prevalent viruses of the time could hide in corners. This innovative design allowed Gouverneur Hospital to become the first public hospital to open a tuberculosis clinic in the United States.

Deemed the “The Angel of the East Side” by residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Jessie Stowers was revered by all who worked with her during the 26 years she was the superintendent of Gouverneur Hospital from 1895 to 1921. Clearly loved by all, as evidenced by her retirement gift, Stowers reluctantly retired due to a heart condition. She would go on to live another 27 years.

Please email us for a complete description of the contents of this archive.

Price: $1,550.00

Item #10214