By Mindy Gordon, Director, Archives and Museum
St. Vincent’s Hospital opened in a brownstone in lower Manhattan in 1849 and continued serving New York City until 2010. Supervised by director Katherine A. Sanborn, the acclaimed School of Nursing graduated the first class of eight nurses in 1893. The hospital had relocated to a renovated building at 7th Avenue and 12th Street in 1856 to accommodate the growing need for medical care in lower Manhattan.
In 1943, the Nursing School, then directed by Sr. Mary Patrick Dowd, was the first in New York State under Catholic authority to receive accreditation by the National League of Nursing. During World War II, the school’s enrollment expanded because of a federal grant that funded tuition from the United States Public Health Service under the National Defense Act. At that time, Cathleen F. Cunningham enrolled as a student cadet and planned to enter the armed services after completing her studies. With the war ending before her graduation, Cathleen became a civilian nurse and experienced a long, successful career in health care.
The family of Cathleen Cunningham Hill (1925–2002) graciously donated the cape and hat that Ms. Cunningham wore as a student, and a shirt front and collar belonging to Mary C. Chamberland, another student. Cathleen’s name is sewn in the inside collar of the blue wool cape, featuring red lining and two front, horizontal straps. The “cap” appears as a flat, starched white double-fold of cotton that each student folded to replicate the required form.
Cathleen married Lloyd F. Hill, Jr. in 1949. They settled in Albertson, N.Y., and had four children: Warren, Joanna, Patrick and Donald. It was Patrick who donated the nursing apparel to the archives in January 2022. The cape is in excellent condition and the only one of its kind in the St. Vincent’s Hospital collection.