Skip to main content

Anna Poole Ferguson Collection

Identifier: RH-A-3753

Scope and Contents

Black-and-white photographs of Anna Poole Ferguson and her fellow nurses during their training at the Kalamazoo State Hospital Nursing Program, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Also included are a Training School for Nurses pamphlet, 1905-1905 and a black-and-white photograph labeled "Quarantine Small Pox 1905".


  • Creation: 1903-1965


Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital Background

The Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, the largest institution of its kind in Michigan, officially opened on August 29, 1859 under the direction of Dr. Edwin Van Deusen. First known as the Michigan Asylum for the Insane, it became the Kalamazoo State Hospital in 1911. From the outset, the hospital pioneered improving medical treatment of mentally ill patients. Before the Michigan Asylum opened, it was common for the insane to be locked in attics, log pens or cellars, while others were placed in county houses, jails and strong rooms. Those considered harmless were permitted to wander about the country sleeping in straw stacks and empty buildings. The Asylum pioneered metrozol and insulin shock treatments and took advantage of the Neuropsychiatric Institute of the University of Michigan. In 1906, Dr. Alfred I. Noble, then superintendent, abolished all forms of mechanical restraints. This was an important step forward, because it eliminated the use of cuffs, camisoles, cages and similar immobilizing devices long associated with mental hospitals.

The hospital was also a pioneer in the creation of nursing and occupational therapy programs, led by Linda Richards and Marion R. Spear. Linda Richards had the honor of being the first student to graduate from nursing school in the United States. She developed an interest in psychiatric nursing and came to Kalamazoo from Massachusetts. She served as the Superintendent of Nurse Training at the State Hospital from 1906 to 1909. The nursing school was accredited in 1892 and operated until 1947. During its 55 years of operation, the program graduated a total of 733 nurses.

Marion R. Spear

Marion R. Spear was a pioneer occupational therapist at the State Hospital, and she became head of occupational therapy at the hospital in 1917. The Kalamazoo School of Occupational Therapy, which she founded in 1922, was one of six such schools that were approved by the American Medical Association. She remained at the school she founded until it was moved in 1945 to Western Michigan University.

Anna Louise Poole

Anna Louise Poole was born May 30, 1884 in Deerfield, Michigan. She was the daughter of Avery and Susan Poole, who came to Kalamazoo in 1904. Anna attended the Kalamazoo State Hospital Nursing School in 1903 and graduated in 1906. Since she was a little girl, Anna always wanted to help the sick. As a nurse, she attended patients, cleaned wards, and sterilized dressings and surgical implements. The hours were long and the pay was low, but Anna felt fortunate to be part of Linda Richards’s reorganization of the hospital. Anna was offered an occupation as an assistant supervisor after graduation, but chose to marry instead. Anna married Adelbert Alexander Ferguson on November 27, 1906. He was born May 19, 1879 and died on February 2, 1950 of a heart and respiratory ailment that developed after an ice fishing accident. The two met while he was a supervisor in one of the men’s wards of the hospital. Adelbert joined the Kalamazoo Police Department in 1906, starting as a patrolman, then served as a patrol sergeant, court officer, lieutenant, and later became captain. He retired on January 1, 1946. The two lived at 1509 Clinton Avenue in Kalamazoo. Anna died on the afternoon of January 19, 1973 at the Verdries Nursing Home in Kalamazoo.


1 boxes

Language of Materials



This collection contains photographs and other materials relating to the Kalamazoo State Hospital Nursing Program that belonged to Anna Poole Ferguson, dating between 1903 and 1965. She was the aunt of Sue Baden, who gave these items to her friend Dorothy Barstow, after her death. Both Dorothy and Sue were graduates of the Borgess School of Nursing.

Physical Description

This collection contains .05 cubic feet of photographs of Anna Poole Ferguson and her fellow nurses, which make up the bulk of the collection. A training booklet for nurses and a commencement pamphlet are also included. Most of the photographs are mounted prints on a black background and are about 4 ½ x 3 ½ inches.

The edges of the mounts are rather worn, and the commencement pamphlet has a horizontal crease that is close to tearing. Otherwise, all items are in relatively good condition.


Information found on the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, Linda Richards, and Marion Spear, were found through the Kalamazoo Public Library’s “All About Kalamazoo History” section of their website. History on the life of Anna Poole Ferguson and her husband were collected through their obituaries as well as articles written about their careers, all published by the Kalamazoo Gazette. Census, marriage, and death records were used as well. This collection will be housed with multiple other collections.

Anna Poole Ferguson Collection Finding Aid
Abbey Buckham
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490