A Guide to the Arvella Bentley Vowell Nurses Collection, 1943-1994
Arvella Bentley Vowell was born in 1904 in Arkansas, the fifth of twelve children. At six months old, Vowell and her family moved to the Texas town of Troy (Bell County, Tex.), and later to Rockwood (Coleman County, Tex.) She had an early interest in nursing, beginning in her childhood. Raised in a large family, Vowell saw the need to assist her mother with the younger children. Out of this experience came a strong desire to care for those in need.
In 1929, Vowell, a widowed mother of two young children, began the three-year nurses training program at Sealy Hospital in Santa Anna, Texas. After becoming a registered nurse in 1933, she moved with her children to San Antonio and began working full-time as a nurse. Over the span of Vowell's 44-year career, she served as a school nurse, private nurse, psychiatric nurse and polio nurse. In addition, she was a visiting nurse at Kelly Field during World War II, a health nurse at Trinity University and a staff nurse at Nix Hospital.
Upon retirement in 1976, Vowell was named historian of Chapter 8 of the Texas Nurses Association, the oldest professional nursing association in Texas. She began, what started as a bicentennial project, to compile the history of District 8 from its inception. She served as historian of the Aurora Residents' Association during the early 1980s at the Aurora Apartments Building, where she had resided since its restoration and re-opening in 1981. Vowell was also an outspoken proponent of women's rights. In 1994 the San Antonio Women's History Coalition presented her with its annual Outstanding Contribution to San Antonio Women's History Award. Vowell died in 1997 at the age of 93.
Finklea Young, Gaylon. "Nurse Traces History of District 8."The Sunday Express-News, San Antonio 17 May 1981: 4E.
Pisano, Marina, "Nursing Pioneer Vowell is Dead."San Antonio Express-News, 23 July 1997: 3B.
West, Tommy. "History of Caring."San Antonio Express-News Magazine, 15 Aug. 1993: 8+.
The Arvella Bentley Vowell Nurses Collection spans the years 1943 through 1994 and consists of clippings, correspondence, books, papers, a scrapbook, a ceramic lamp and a photograph. There is little biographical information, but there are clippings dating from the 1950s to the 1990s. The bulk of the materials consist of books from her personal library, most of which were published in the 1980s. These publications cover varying historical periods on nursing and important events in women's history, and two are signed by the authors. Also of interest, because of the personal nature, is a lamp with Vowell's name and District 8's insignia embossed upon it, and a color photograph of Vowell, an alternate version of photograph used in a 1993 article on her.
The scrapbook was assembled by Vowell, and contains obituaries, memorial programs, photographs and clippings regarding nurses and nursing topics. The materials date from the 1910s to the 1990s, and the majority concern nursing history from the local San Antonio area. Also included in the scrapbook are a few clippings and letters of correspondence from the 1970s and 1980s relating to Vowell's role as historian at District 8. Of particular interest are two general nurses directories for San Antonio from 1917 and 1938.
The subject files include the topics of African American nursing history, general nursing history, Texas nurse Helen Moore, Sealy Hospital, Texas nursing history and general women's history. The file on African American nursing includes a few clippings and a tribute to nurses published by Howard University in 1989. The general nursing history file contains a few clippings and several formal papers (one by Vowell) from the 1970s and 1980s. In the file on Helen Moore are a few clippings on Moore (including obituary) from the 1930s to 1970s. Also present are letters of correspondence to Vowell from 1982 related to her research on Moore. The Sealy Hospital file features clippings from the 1970s and undated on its founders, as well as a letter of correspondence to Vowell and an article by her on original founder Dr. T. Richard Sealy, both from the 1970s. Information on Texas nursing history can be found in the form of clippings and papers from 1909 to 1992. The two papers present are on pioneer Texas nurses, one of which is authored by Vowell. There is also a letter of correspondence to Vowell included in this file. The amount of materials in the women's history file is relatively small, and contains a women's history poster published by AARP in 1994, as well as a copy of an undated Congressional resolution regarding Women's History Month.
This collection is housed at UTSA's Main Campus and must be accessed via the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room. To request access, please use the Collections Request Form.
Permission to publish material from the collection must be obtained from University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
[Identification of item], Arvella Bentley Vowell Nurses Collection, MS 6, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
The materials in this collection were donated by Arvella B. Vowell in 1994.
Processed by Dale Sauter, Processing Archivist, April 2001.
Detailed Description of the Collection