Tag Archives: World War II

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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A Royal Wartime Romance

Hennepin County’s famous Aquatennial has been part of the Minneapolis summer since 1940. So, too, have been its royalty, including the festival’s Queen of the Lakes. Young single women representing cities and companies across the state gather in Minneapolis each year to compete for the opportunity to serve on the Aquatennial royal court. Here at Hennepin History Museum, our extensive historic Aquatennial collection has extensive files filled with historic photographs, scrapbooks, coronation gowns, and crowns associated with the Queen of the Lakes. Their stories are part of the Aquatennial story, but also provide a glimpse into broader historical trends and experiences. In the case of Queens Margaret Cary and Nancy Thum (above), the collection and its stories provides a peek at what it was like to be a young adult in World War II-era Minnesota.

During the 1940s, the Aquatennial Queen of Lakes rules were clear: married women were not eligible to run for or to hold the title of Queen of the Lakes. In 1944, this led to an unexpected situation when in that December, not one but two current reigning Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes were “conquered  by Cupid in uniform!” With the advent of World War II, American marriage rates skyrocketed. The average age at time of marriage also dropped. Perhaps no surprise, the eligible young Aquatennial royals also found love and chose marriage.

In early December 1944, with the war still raging, Queen Margaret Cary chose to give up her crown to marry her fiance, recently returned army flyer Charles Sandberg. Nancy Thom, shown above, took over the royal duties. But just weeks later, Nancy announced her own engagement! Her fiance remained stationed in California, however, and Nancy’s wedding did not take place until after she had served out the rest of her reign and crowned her successor.

Hennepin History Museum is home to the historic Aquatennial collection. Please click here to make a financial contribution to help us to preserve and share this important local historical resource.