Putting the Pieces Together
How An Inventory Find Led to the Rediscovery of a Nurse’s Story
by Deborah Rose Van Horn, Registrar
As we work through the inventory of the museum collection we occasionally come across a piece that leads us to solve a little mystery. One recent find was a World War I nurse’s bag and cap. The bag had been listed as a piece that was found in the collections in the 1980s and there was no mention of the cap anywhere. Fortunately, the nurse who owned this bag had written her name on it.
The first thing we did was search our database for other items related to Ms. Hunt. We were able to find a record for an archival collection that listed “approximately 75 items including newspaper clippings, letters, souvenirs, etc.” The record also indicated that it was in the collection of items that came from the Kentucky Military History Museum (KMHM).
That led to the next clue — a catalog card that said that the items were processed at the KMHM in March of 1980. That means it was there prior to that date. The record also said that the items were transferred from KHS. So we went back to the KHS records for the search.
Soon we pulled the archival collections off the shelf in hopes that there was a clue about the donation hidden in the files. This helped solve our mystery because the original donation paperwork was discovered in the files. The pieces were all donated at one time in 1968 by Ms. Hunt’s niece, Emma Frank, to honor her aunt as the 50th anniversary of Armistice Day approached.
However, that was not the only cool information I found in the files.
It turns out that Emma Hunt was a really influential figure in Kentucky nursing in the early 20th century. Inside the file were letters from figures such as Gov. A.O. Stanley, Gov. Ruby Lafoon, Gov. Keen Johnson, Gov. A. B. “Happy” Chandler, Alben Barkley, and Justice Fred Vinson. The files also contained photographs and biographical information that told the story of this really interesting woman.
Here are a few highlights of what I found:
- 1913 — Hunt graduates from the Louisville City Training School for Nurses
- 1914 — By 1914, she was the night supervisor for nurses at the Louisville City Hospital
- Around 1915 — Hunt becomes a member of the State Tuberculosis Commission
- World War I — Hunt takes a leave of absence from the Tuberculosis Commission to serve as a nurse in World War I. She serves with military camps in America and then in England and France with the A.E.F. She was in the Barrows unit.
- 1927 — Hunt becomes the first female Kentucky Colonel
- 1928 — She becomes the first director of the Kentucky Children’s Bureau
- 1935 — Hunt becomes president of the Kentucky Board of Nurse Examiners