History of the South Dakota Nurses Association (SDNA)

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"The South Dakota State Nurses Association of Graduate Nurses was organized in the Club Room of the Carnegie Library on July 11 and 12, 1916." So states the announcement which appeared in the American Journal of Nursing, 1916. The Officers elected were President Mrs. Elizabeth Dryborough, Rapid City; Vice President Iva D. Dyar, Bookings; Second Vice President Irene Labrie, Redfield; Recording Secretary Don Lane Wortenberger, Mystic; Corresponding Secretary Nellie Card, Rapid City; Treasurer Estella McGill, Vale; Auditory Dora Malheit Taylor, Rapid City. Thus did South Dakota become the 43rd state constituent of the American Nurses Association.

The seventeen nurses who came from all parts of the state for this meeting became charter members of the organization known today as South Dakota Nurses Association. Some are named in the minutes: Nellie Card, Audie Car, Mrs. T. B. Werner, Miss Wallen, Miss Inrie, Mrs. McGill, Mrs. H. Mathaes, Clara C. Ingvallson, Elva Wade, Mrs. Elizabeth Dryborough, as well as two Sisters from Deadwood and two other persons whose names are not on the record.

Can you picture it? Warm, sunny days in the Black Hills of 1916. Can you not feel their passion for this major accomplishment - a professional organization for nurses and for women in the state of South Dakota? Can you not feel the excitement of traveling from all parts of the state to the lovely, then quite "small town" of Rapid City? There was little time to dawdle - these women had work to do. And work they did.

The constitution and bylaws of the South Dakota Association of Graduate Nurses were adopted July 11, 1916. Of interest to us is that the initiation fee was five dollars and the annual dues were one dollar, to be paid before the annual meeting.

In the early years of the state associations, school of nursing alumnae associations served as intermediaries between the State Nurses Association and the alumnae members. Nurses paid their national, state and district dues to the alumnae treasurer. Later, direct payment to the districts, to the state, and then to ANA was stipulated in the constitution. Many of these early members of the SDNA had difficulty becoming accustomed to paying dues to SDNA. Their first allegiance was to their school of nursing and probably second to their professional organization. (I do not know of any other profession which has organized its membership through alumnae associations. This method may have established a perspective which has been a detriment to the state organization, although the nurses who remember the alumnae method are becoming fewer and fewer.)

The first goal of the organization was to formulate a model nurse practice act which would protect the safety of the public by licensure of women who had met certain educational standards. These standards were to be decided upon by the Board of Nurse Examiners, a board provided for in the proposed act. This board is the present day Board of Nursing. The act provided for the protection of the use of the title R.N., not the protection of nursing functions. The proposed bill was presented to the 1917 session of the South Dakota Legislature. The bill, No. 38, 1917, was passed by the Legislature and became law upon the governor's signature January 24, 1917.

It seems appropriate that the first meeting of the South Dakota Nurses Association was held in the western part of South Dakota, for it was in this area that the first hospitals were organized, following the influx of large numbers of white settlers into that part of the Dakota Territory when gold was discovered in the Black Hills. The first hospital, which provided nursing by Sisters and by trained women, was established in Lead, South Dakota in 1877. During the next decade, hospitals were established in Hot Springs, Deadwood and Sturgis.

In conversation with Anna Haugen Berdahl and Alice Olson, the writer learned that Elizabeth Dryborough, a well prepared and experienced nurse, had moved to Rapid City with her husband. Her experience in other states made her a leading spirit in professional nursing in South Dakota. It was natural for her to begin her pioneering effort in development of the state association and licensure of nurses in her "home town" Rapid City.

In 1929, the title South Dakota Nurses Association for Graduate Nurses was changed to the South Dakota State Nurses Association. Three years later, the organization was incorporated. The state was divided into three districts. District 1 included the entire land mass west of the Missouri River – a very large district. The east river area was divided into two districts--one northeast (No. 2) and one southeast (No.3). In 1957, the State Association reorganized into 13 districts and the Rapid City area remained District 1 as a remembrance of SDNA's birthplace.

So we over celebrate 80 years of existence of the state professional organization and the members who have risked, worked, and enhanced our professional life. So onward to 100 years and the 21st century.

Evelyn Peterson DNSc, RN