Sept. 22, 2009
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
SRU hosts 'Sisters in Healthcare History Project' exhibit
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The first major exhibit of the Slippery Rock University Sisters in Healthcare History project - an artifact tribute to the hundreds of unheralded Roman Catholic sisters who cared for the sick between 1847-1969 - will be staged from Oct. 27 to Nov. 20 at SRU's Martha Gault Art Gallery. The grand opening will be 6 to 8 p.m. the first night.
The exhibit will include more than 20 life-size mannequins outfitted in uniforms and religious habits, eight historical panels with photographs and medical equipment that the sisters used at various hospitals.
"What we want people to understand is the importance of the work, drive and perseverance demonstrated by the sisters who accomplished things that may seem on the face of it almost impossible," said John Bavaro, SRU associate professor of professional studies and curator. "Their relevance continues. Even thought they may not be as involved in health care currently, we can learn a lesson from them about giving and meeting the needs of society."
Bavaro has been amassing artifacts for several years and has shown individual pieces but never the bulk of the collection. The artifacts represent contributions from 16 religious orders in western Pennsylvania. Most sisters worked for little or no pay.
"To our knowledge, the exhibit is the only one in the country that showcases the healthcare contribution of Roman Catholic sisters," Bavaro said.
Bavaro credited the sisters with several medical firsts. They founded Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital and were involved in the advancement of anesthesiology, the polio vaccine and the first in-patient drug rehabilitation center. One modified an oxygen tank for use on a baby, and sisters would often give up their own beds in order to take care of the patients.
The artifacts also provide a sense of the primitive conditions in which sisters worked. They include a wooden crutch used by a soldier during the Civil War, a blood pressure device from the 1920s and sick call set from early the 1900s.
Sue Marz, a 2006 SRU history graduate, has been helping Bavaro with the exhibit and said she admires the sisters as women pioneers.
"It's women's history, and there really isn't much women's history told," she said. "They helped to run hospitals, nursing homes and orphanages. They were in charges of these institutions at a time when women didn't run much of anything.
The exhibit will be free. SRU's Martha Gault gallery is in the Malty Center.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.