Collection Finding Aid


Guide to the Bessie B. Baker Papers, 1930-1941 (MC.0028)


Contains the professional papers of Bessie Baker (1874-1942), first dean of the Duke University School of Nursing. Types of materials include correspondence, writings, and course materials. Major subjects include Duke Hospital, Duke University School of Nursing, nursing education, and nursing students. Materials range in date from 1930 to 1941.

Descriptive Summary

Call Number
Bessie B. Baker Papers
Baker, Bessie B.
0.5 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box)
Duke University Medical Center Archives

Series Quick Links

Collection Overview

Contains correspondence, writings, and teaching materials of Bessie Baker, faculty member and dean (1930-1938), of the Duke University School of Nursing. Forms part of the Duke University School of Nursing records. Materials range in date from 1930 to 1941.

Arrangement Note

Organized into the following series: Papers, 1930-1941.

Restrictions on Access & Use

Some collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval.

Access Restrictions


Use Restrictions

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Contents of the Collection

1. Papers, 1930-1941

Series Scope and Contents: Contains correspondence, reports, handbook, and lectures. These materials are from Baker's tenure as dean of Duke's School of Nursing and discuss faculty appointments, student recruitment letters, lecture notes, and governance of the School of Nursing. Materials range in date from 1930 to 1941.

Correspondence, letters of recruitment and appointment, 1930-1938
Box 1
Correspondence, letters to new students, 1931-1932
Box 1
Lecture notes, orthopedics for nurses, ca. 1932-1934
Box 1
Lecture notes, surgery and practical nursing, ca. 1932-1938
Box 1
Student Government Association of Duke School of Nursing, official report, 1939-1940
Box 1
Student Government Association of Duke School of Nursing, correspondence regarding student conduct, 1941
Box 1
Memoranda to student council from School of Nursing Committee, 1938
Box 1
Nominations for student government officers, 1940
Box 1
Student government test on handbook, undated
Box 1
Procedure Revision Committee, undated
Box 1
Honor code and honor system, ca. 1938
Box 1
Naming of Duke Hospital wards, undated
Box 1

Biographical Note

Bessie Baker was born in Maryland in 1874. She graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, where she served for several years as assistant director of nursing. After leaving Johns Hopkins she became the assistant superintendent of nurses at the Women's Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

During World War I, Baker was chief base nurse at Base Hospital No. 18, a Johns Hopkins Hospital unit. Following the war, Baker returned to school to continue her nursing studies. Upon completion of her work at the Teachers College of Columbia University in 1922, she became the director of the Charles T. Miller Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, and assistant professor of nursing at the University of Minnesota.

In 1929, Wilburt Cornell Davison (first dean of the Duke University School of Medicine) recruited Baker to become the first dean of the Duke University School of Nursing. Baker officially joined Duke University in 1930; the School of Nursing opened under her guidance in 1931. Baker was especially valued by Davison for her input into planning for the areas of nursing staff, operating room, equipment, and materials logistics. She convinced Davison to charge tuition and award diplomas, rather than certificates, to School of Nursing graduates.

Bessie Baker retired in 1938 after forming a solid foundation for the Duke University School of Nursing. A portrait of Baker was presented to Duke University by the School of Nursing Alumni on June 4, 1939. Baker died in 1942, and on September 29, 1943, nurses and physicians voted to change the name of the Nurses' Home to Baker House in her honor.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Bessie B. Baker Papers, Duke University Medical Center Archives.

Acquisitions Information

Accession A2003.040 (acquired, June 2003)

Processing Information

Processed by Archives staff: December 2003

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