My name is Emily Menendez and I joined the Champaign County Historical Archives as a practicum student in January 2017. I am a graduate student at the University of Illinois’ School of Information Sciences and processed the Illinois Nurses Association Collection in the Archives.
The collection contains the Illinois Nurses Association District 15’s organization records, correspondence, subject files, and oral histories. District 15 formed in Champaign, Illinois in the 1950s to provide a professional and educational outlet for nurses in the community.
They held monthly meetings to discuss health topics, continuing education, and political advocacy within the nursing profession. The collection includes the chapter’s newsletters, Echo and Chart, which served as the primary source for communicating education and community health events.
In 1970, the INA District 15 supported the Burnham City Hospital nurses strike. Many nurses saw this as an opportunity to protest poor working conditions and lack of representation by a professional nursing organization in Champaign hospitals. Members of District 15 that supported the strike included Dona Stanner, Frances Freidman, and Janet Anderson, whose oral histories are available through the Local History Online catalog.
The strike increased the organization’s membership and involvement in the community. District 15 participated in the INA State Biennial Convention and held membership drives. Most notably, they hosted a membership invitational event in 1987 at the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.
The chapter advocated nursing legislation such as the Illinois Nursing Act: Proposed Nurse Practice Act. They also partnered with Lakeview College of Nursing in Danville, Illinois to host workshops and continuing education classes. One of the members of District 15, Dona Stanner, donated slides of a presentation of the profession to high school students. The oral histories in INA District 15 contain a rich personal description of the chapter, specifically, the impact District 15 had on the Burnham City Hospital nurses strike and in the larger community. The former nurses also explain how District 15 helped them develop professionally and personally through networking and education opportunities.
In 2006, District 15 dissolved due to decreased membership and the centralization of the INA state chapter within the American Nurses Association. District 15 challenged the nursing profession to seek improved working conditions and education to better themselves and the Champaign community members they served.