Not Just Superheroes Wear Capes: Cora Stahn’s Fairview Hospital Nursing Cape

This navy colored, wool cape was worn by Cora Eleanor (Hanson) Stahn during her years as a nursing student (1942-1944) at the Fairview Hospital School of Nursing in Minneapolis. Capes were given out to nursing students in the 1940s and early 1950s, and used by nurses into the 1960s. A student would wear her cape as she traveled from her dorm to the hospital: keeping the designated white nurses uniform clean underneath.

Cora herself was born in Granite Falls, MN in 1922 to Henry T. and Mary Hanson. After moving to Minneapolis to attend nursing school, she met her future husband Dr. Louis H. Stahn. The two married in 1945 and following the birth of their three children the family moved to Fergus Falls in 1955, and eventually to the St. Cloud area. Cora (age 95) currently lives in Sartell, MN.

Fairview Hospital first opened its doors to patients on January 31, 1916 after almost ten years of careful planning and preparation, organized by the United Church Hospital Association. To ensure that patients were receiving the care they needed, the Fairview Hospital Training School opened 15 days before the hospital on January 16, 1916. The first task of the 24 women who were hired as nurses was to make up the beds for the soon to be admitted patients. By the time Cora came to the nursing program in 1942, the United States was heavily involved in both the Pacific and European theaters of World War II. The hospital had to be prepared for “blackout drills” and the rationing of supplies like sugar, gas, and even shoes. In The Fairview Story, written by Fern Swanke, Swanke mentions that nylon hose, a staple of a nurse uniform, “[were] impossible to buy.” Due to the influx of Graduate nurses leaving to serve overseas, new student nurses were given more responsibility.

The original building that housed the nursing program was raised in 1956 to make room for the Fairview Mental Health and Rehabilitation Unit.

Author Bio

Olivia Schiffman is a volunteer at Hennepin History Museum. She has her Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, History, and Music from Hamline University. She currently works for the City of Hugo, digitizing records and compiling research on the cities one room schoolhouse, as well as the Minnesota History Museum, researching the history of underrepresented communities at Fort Snelling.

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