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Katherine Olmsted was born between 1886 – 1888 and brought up in Des Moines, Iowa. She graduated from Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1912. After her graduation from Johns Hopkins, she remained in Baltimore, first with the Baltimore Instructive Visiting Nurse Association, where she made a special survey on causes of blindness and the care of the blind. She then served in the Social Services Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In the spring of 1914, she resigned her position at Hopkins to organize public health work in Jacksonville, Ill. working with newly enfranchised women in the Anti-Tuberculosis League. In 1916 Olmsted’s public health work moved to the Wisconsin Anti-Tuberculosis Association, where she was the State Supervising Nurse and organized and directed the state’s first course in public health work for registered nurses given at the University of Wisconsin through its extension division.

During World War I, Olmsted began work with the Red Cross. She was part of a commission of doctors and nurses sent in August, 1917 to Romania to fight typhus and study health conditions. Olmsted’s public health nursing included conducting clinics and an outpatient department for women and children from a military hospital along the eastern front. This group was trapped between the German Army and the Russian Revolution with no outside contact. After escaping from Russia by train through Siberia and Lapland, Olmsted returned to the United States in the summer of 1918 to become the assistant secretary of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing. She served in Chicago as the Western Secretary where she demonstrated public health nursing in rural counties for the Federal Children’s Bureau. In 1921, Olmsted became the Associate Chief of the Department of Nursing and Director of Public Health Nursing with the League of Red Cross Societies in Geneva, Switzerland, and in 1922 Director of the Department of Nursing, where she worked to form public health nursing organizations worldwide. She organized a course in public health nursing at Bedford College, University of London, and Kings College in London for public health nurses from all over the world.

At the end of her time in Europe, Olmsted took the Cordon Bleu cooking course at the University of the Sorbonne in Paris, France. She returned to the United States in 1927 to open her French restaurant, Normandy Inn, in Sodus, New York, near her brother’s farm. She ran the restaurant until her death in 1964.

Scope and Content

The Katherine Olmsted Collection consists primarily of the medals and certificates awarded for her Red Cross work, along with correspondence from her cousin, Anna Olmsted, and others about Olmsted. Three photos also exist.

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