The Nurse’s Cape: a Symbol of Strength

The Massachusetts Memorial Hospital Nursing Class of 1937 picture shows the newly graduated nurses standing in front of the Nurses’ Residence Building. The photo holds many memories for our family.  Standing in the second row on the right side, my mother graduated as a Registered Nurse and commenced her work in Boston as a private care nurse and Public Health Nurse.

To be protected from the elements, she wore a navy blue wool cape with double tabs, a mandarin collar and a lining of red wool.  Embroidered on both sides of the cape are the initials MMH representing the hospital affiliation.  The cape is impeccably tailored.

As I researched this vintage treasure, I noted the label had the New York Manufacturer’s name as Altro Work Shops whose NY address was  1021 Jennings Street.  Black and white photos can be found via an online search.  The manufacturer provided nurses’ uniforms and military uniforms during the early 20th century and WWII time frame.  Also below the label is a second one with a double M and probably the hospital logo at the time.  Our mother’s maiden name was Mary Mooney and also a double M.

After she died in April of 1994, I recall seeing my mother’s wool cape hanging in my Pueblo, Colorado closet enclosed in plastic, fastened with a wooden clothespin at the top and a loose knot at the bottom of the plastic bag to protect from moths. I received the cape from one of my sisters living in WA state.  Amazingly, it remained hanging as our mother had left it.  There was even the dry cleaner’s number inside affixed with a safety pin.

What a journey this cape has had! Manufactured in NY, purchased in MA and worn for work in the Boston area, the cape moved to CO where we lived and  was kept lovingly protected even though our mother did not work outside the home when she married.  The cape’s journey continued to WA state where it remained safely ensconced it its man-made cocoon until it make the journey East in a UPS box and arrived in mint condition.

Our daughter, now an RN, visited recently for my husband’s birthday and inherited this heirloom in pristine condition. It has come full cycle and is of such good quality material and construction that it can be safely worn and stored for another 82+ years.  My mother and her sister both graduated from this nursing school  having lived through  The Great Depression.  Both strong females, they were role models for women everywhere.

Our mother eventually received college credits for her RN degree and graduated with honors and a Bachelor’s Degree from college where she was the eldest in her graduating class.  The younger students wondered how our mother had the highest grades.  She quipped that she spent her free time and weekends studying and not dating since she was happily married.  A voracious reader and excellent writer, our mother began studies to become a librarian.  A true Renaissance person, she was talented at the piano, studied tailoring and fashioned fine winter wool coats and suits.  Her poetry inspired.  The cape is symbolic for the value she placed on education and for a woman who had her own profession.  Thus, education held high value in our family. You and your cape symbolize strength, fortitude, perseverance and beauty.  You have been an inspiration to us.  So proud of you, Mom.  Thank you.

This entry was posted in Altro Work Shops, Boston private and public health RN, Massachusetts Memorial Hospital, Renaissance person, the Cape's Journey, The Great Depression, The Nurse's Cape and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to The Nurse’s Cape: a Symbol of Strength

  1. balroop2013 says:

    Lovely memories. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A beautiful legacy and heirloom handed down…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Peter Klopp says:

    What a wonderful journey your mother’s beautiful nurse’s uniform has taken and then finally after the long journey is being worn by your daughter. Then people still say, miraculous stories occur only in fairy tales. Not so. Truly a gem in your family history, Mary Ann!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your comment so touched me today. I have goose bumps. If people are still blogging in another 80+ years, I wonder if someone else in the family might wear this cape? It truly is miraculous, and I hope my mother is smiling down from heaven. I appreciate your comment and insight, Peter. Have a great weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Arno Bode, Cologne,Germany says:

    Liebe Mary Ann,
    eine liebevolle Homage für deine Mutter. Wieder einmal Herz berührend. Große Achtung für den von deiner lieben Tochter Emily Catherine ergriffenen Beruf.Es gehört ,nach meinem Dafürhalten zu einer besonderen Lebensauffassung ,für andere Menschen da zu sein. Ganz bewundernswert.
    Alles Gute und herzlichen Glückwunsch zu deinem bevorstehenden Hochzeitstag für Dich und deinen Ehemann Russell. Mögest Du mit Russell und deiner Familie noch viele glückliche harmonische Stunden genießen können.
    Mit herzlichen Grüßen aus Germany
    Dein Arno

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lieber Arno,
      Vielen Dank, Arno, für diesen schönen und verständnisvollen Kommentar. Unsere Tochter hat sich für einen sehr noblen Beruf entschieden, etwa für die Krankenpflege. Es ist oft schwierig, wenn es um den Tod geht, aber sie ist für ihre Patienten da. Ein weiterer helfender Beruf und das Rückgrat der Gesellschaft und aller anderen Berufe ist der Lehrerberuf. Ich bin überzeugt, dass ich andere Leben berührt habe und den Schülern geholfen habe, ihren Beruf im Beruf weiterzuverfolgen. Danke auch für die Glückwünsche zum Hochzeitstag. Wir heirateten in Norfolk, Virginia, und am 22. Januar war das Wetter warm und mild. Jetzt erwarten wir an diesem Wochenende ungefähr zwei Fuß Schnee. So ist das Leben. Vielen Dank für Deinen freundlichen Kommentar. Alles Gute für Dich und Deine Familie.
      Deine Mary Ann ^__^


  5. John’s mother was a nurse, and someone in the family has her cape. I remember the person saying how warm it was, and that she was going to wear it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Nice. I recall earlier in my career, working with an RN who still wore her cape to work on cool days. She wore a cap too. I never had either of those things, though I did get a pin from my nursing school.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the comment, Joe. As I researched this blog and the label inside the cape, I found several historical museums which have these capes. With two layers of wool, it is very warm. Next blog about nursing will be part 2 of this story. My sister found my mother’s nursing cap and the graduation program from 1937. Emily has inherited my mother’s nursing pin and cape. Some capes are for sale as I recall, on ebay. I think it is a neat symbol of the profession. The company also made military uniforms during WWI and WWII.


  7. Emily says:

    I love this post so much and the photos! Thanks for sharing mom! Grandma was so elegant and a true inspiration as you have been to me as well! I love you.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Annika Perry says:

    Wow! A wonderful post and you paint such a moving image of your mother, her strength, tenacity and love! The cape is beautiful and I can’t belive the excellent condition… and how special that it is now your daughter’s, a nurse herself. It suits her perfectly and looks so stylish. A treasure trove of memories for your whole family, the past, present and future all connected through the cape! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • A thousand thanks, Annika, for your wonderful and perceptive comment. One cape connecting so many people and generations. I agree that it is stylish and looks so well on our nurse Emily. Capes are back in style too. At almost 90 years of age and in mint condition, perhaps it can see another future wearer too. We have cherished it as much as my mother did. So happy you found the post wonderful. My mother continues to inspire with her legacy. Much appreciated, Annika, with the wow factor!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. bernard25 says:

    Bonjour ou bonsoir mon amie

    La mélodie du cœur
    Celle que l’on entend qu’une fois et qui nous transporte si loin
    Au delà des nuages et au delà des paysages

    La mélodie du cœur ne s’invente pas elle s’écoute
    Elle est si belle
    La mélodie du cœur
    Elle nous transporte, fait pousser des ailes d’anges dans le dos
    Qu’elle te transporte au paradis là ou tout est éternel
    Que ce weekend à venir soit une explosion de bonheur avec tes proches
    Bonne journée ou belle soirée
    gros bisous

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cher Bernard, les mélodies et la musique sont un aliment pour l’esprit et pour âme. Oui, la mélodie du cœur alimente la vie elle-même. Il y a une telle beauté dans notre environnement si seulement nous sommes capables d’observer et d’écouter. Que le cœur batte pour créer de belles et constantes mélodies. Merci pour un si beau commentaire. Comme toujours, Mary Ann


  10. dalegreenearts says:

    I love the cape. I think they look like super nurses when they wear the cape.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. equipsblog says:

    Most all superheroes wear (or have) a cape. 🙂 Lovely garment.

    Liked by 2 people

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