Nurse Loretta Rice: 52 Weeks challenge- School Days

The theme for the 52 Weeks challenge by Amy Crow Johnson is School Days. I chose my Great Aunt Loretta Rice who became a nurse and worked as a school nurse. She was born July 3, 1881 in New London, Wisconsin to Charles Rice and Catherine Carew. She is the middle of three children. Her siblings are Frank Rice 1869 ( my great grandfather) and Melvin Rice 1883. Loretta can be found in the 1900 census with her parents and Melvin. Loretta graduated from New London High School in 1900 and moved to Milwaukee to attend nursing school. She graduated from Columbia School of Nursing in 1905. She can be found in the 1905 Wisconsin census as a nurse living in Milwaukee, presumably a dormitory type living arrangement, working at Knowlton Hospital. This census was most likely taken towards the end of her training. She is listed with the Administrative staff, Physician and 22 other nurses. She can be found in the 1920 census still living in Milwaukee, this time in a boarding house, and working as a private nurse.

According to her obituary, Loretta went back to nursing school to take a course in public health nursing. She moved back to New London and took a job as the City Nurse in 1923. She can be found in 240 newspaper articles between 1923 and 1960. Most of them were short and discussing her various activities she carried out in the capacity of her job. She did screenings at school and mass vaccinations. There was an article detailing that 1200 students were receiving Iodine tablets for goiter and that the tablets were supplied by the county and the teachers were to give the students the medication. This prompted a little detective work and I found that in the Great Lakes Region, there were a larger number of Iodine deficiencies so it looks like the school nurses screened for this and the county provided the treatment. This was a prevention program that was sponsored by the Wisconsin Medical society. She also weighed the children and would obtain funds from various charities to purchase milk for children who were underweight. Vision checks were made and glasses procured for those in need. She also handed out coupons to students for free haircuts, presumably for lice prevention.

Sampling of headlines that featured Loretta Rice

In addition to the above work, Loretta was also educating the students and parents. There are numerous articles which detail her work around education. She would give talks about Tuberculosis stressing early diagnosis and treatment. Some other interesting articles around education included the way the students dress in the winter. She stated that girls dress too lightly and boys dress too heavy. She stressed they should dress correctly for the weather. She talked a lot about nutrition and felt that the undernourished child is not from the home of the less fortunate rather the well to do home where the child can eat when and what he desires.  She also spoke about another issue in which the upper classes lose sleep due to excessive social activities. In the same article she stated that students who work are unable to do justice to school work. She concluded that the extra work puts undue stress on the nervous system of the growing child by not providing enough sleep.

One article detailed what she did during one school year some highlights include: 542 visits to the local schools, 705 home visits, 164 health talks. Also, she provided first aid to 544 children and 591 notices sent to parents. A total of 6190 students were weighed and reported that all but 47 children were vaccinated.

from left to right Loretta Rice, Hazel Jagdfeld-Rice, Katie Carew-Rice, Lena Carew, Harry Rice Jr, Harry Rice Sr.

Other articles about her include going to conferences for continuing education and work in the community. She was a member of various charitable organizations that would collect clothes and toys to distribute.

There was an article that discussed an increase in salary from $130 to $145 that was voted down but then her salary was increased to $140. This is a monthly salary. The increase was to help with the cost of maintaining her car that she used for work.

There were also short one to two sentence blurbs about where she was going for vacation (usually Milwaukee, Mackinac Island or Canada) and who went with her or who was visiting her (mostly relatives from the Carew side of the family). I also learned from other articles that she played golf and bridge. There was even a report in September 1940 when she fell in her home and broke her right arm.

Loretta can be found in the 1930 census, living with her mom and brother and in the 1940 census living with her Aunt Lena Carew. In that census, her household income was $1540 and she worked 44 weeks. That would be equivalent to $26,000 now. The median salary f0r a school nurse now is $46,000.

Loretta never married and outlived her brothers. Her obituary stated that she worked as the City Nurse from 1923 until 1950. Loretta seemed to be very active in the community and dedicated to her work as a nurse especially educating the students and parents about various health issues. Loretta Rice died January 23, 1960 at the age of 78 and is buried in the family plot at Most Precious Blood cemetery, New London, WI.


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