In this interview, Elsie B. Anderson discusses her parents’ Swedish origins, their sixth grade-level educations, and their paths to learning English. She goes on to recall having three career options – nurse, teacher, or secretary – and choosing to become a nurse.
Being only seventeen when she graduated high school, Anderson explains why she chose to spend one year taking general courses at Rhode Island State College, now University of Rhode Island, and join the Cadet Nurse Corps. She remembers getting extensive government funding because it was the start of World War II when nurses were most needed, and getting some military benefits for her service. She goes on to explain that studying in Rhode Island Hospital’s nursing program for one year, her grades were so high that she was chosen to attend a new nursing program Pembroke College in October 1944. This dual program allowed her to receive a nursing diploma from Rhode Island Hospital in addition to a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Pembroke.
Anderson describes living in the women’s infirmary on the Pembroke campus, Dean Margaret Shove Morriss’ logic behind the dual program, and the curriculum requirements. In speaking of the coeducational classes that were necessitated by wartime, Anderson elucidates her initial disappointment with the Pembroke-Brown merger and identifies the benefits she has noticed over time.
Anderson briefly reflects back on social life on campus and dances, before returning to the topic of the dual program. She notes that after nursing schools had to receive national accreditation, Pembroke was no longer a legitimate school from which to receive a nursing degree. She explains how this affected her future occupational and educational opportunities. Anderson concludes her interview by describing commencement at both Pembroke and Rhode Island Hospital, her career teaching nursing, and how she managed maintaining a career and motherhood.
Note: The audio for this interview is occasionally of poor quality. Please also refer to the transcript.
Goddard House, Brown University