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RG5243.AM:  Martha Hermine (Jansen) Sheldon, 1903-1994

Papers:  1903-1991, mostly 1920-1940

Barneston, Gage County; Lincoln, Lancaster County; Falls City and Stella, Richardson County; and Hastings, Adams County, Neb.:  Nurse

Size:  0.5 cu.ft.; 1 box


Martha Hermine Jansen was born in Kit Carson County, Colorado, on March 18, 1903; her family moved to Barneston, Gage County, Nebraska, later that year. Her father, Gerhardt Jansen, was a Lutheran minister born in Germany; and her mother, Talina Hedding Jansen, also of German heritage, had been born in Illinois. Martha attended Gage and Saunders County public elementary schools and graduated from Lincoln High in January of 1923. She entered nurses training at the Lincoln Sanatorium in 1924, graduating in 1927. A Registered Nurse and later floor supervisor, she worked for thirty-seven years at Mary Lanning Hospital in Hastings. In 1931 she married Frank Merrill Sheldon; they had one daughter, Marilyn. During the 1930s Martha participated actively in the Stella Research Club, a women’s group. She died at the age of 91 on August 25, 1994.


This collection consists of papers relating to the life and education of Martha Hermine Jansen Sheldon. It is arranged in three series: 1) Educational and Professional Materials; 2) Correspondence; and 3) Miscellaneous. In addition there are photos of family members and groups of nurses (1890s-1993), housed in the Photo Archive, and audio tapes (1986-1993), housed in the Audiovisual Collections.

Series 1 includes records and mementos of her elementary and high school and nursing education as well as a copy of her scrapbook/journal from nurses training. The Nurses Training scrapbook/journal is of special note, as it reveals Martha’s charm and humorous approach to life. It features anecdotes and descriptions of a student nurse’s life, with illustrations clipped from magazines and annotated by Martha or drawn by her. The well-written and entertaining entries bring to life the details of a nurse’s preparation in the 1920s.

Letters of special interest in Series 2, Correspondence, include Martha’s poignant account of her childhood experiences, written in 1983 to a relative preparing a Hedding family history. It emphasizes the period from the death of her mother, when Martha was just an infant until age fourteen, when her stepmother sent her away from home to make her living as a hired girl, even though she had not yet finished elementary school. Warmly supported by the Adens, good-hearted neighbors who took her in the day her mother died and kept her until her father remarried when she was two years old, the child experienced emotional deprivation at the hands of her stepmother. Her hard work in various households and her determination to have an education helped her to succeed without parental guidance.

Series 2 also has appreciative letters from former student Mary Ann Gay and a group of lively letters written from 1929-1950 by Martha’s good friend and nursing colleague Rosa Studier in Denver: they describe Rosa’s medical treatment and daily life.

Among the miscellaneous items of Series 3 is a group of annual program booklets from the Stella Research Club (1932-1939) listing Martha as corresponding secretary and member of the child health and scrapbook committees.


Series 1 – Educational/Professional Materials, 1913-1983

Box 1


  1. Elementary and high school materials, 1913-1923

    Lincoln High School class schedule, semester 2, 1920-1921 (see OB125)

  2. Nurses training scrapbook/journal, 1924-1925 [photocopy only]

  3. Nurses training class notes, undated

  4. Nurses training examinations, 1925-1927

  5. Grade reports, 1952-1959

  6. Professional records, 1927-1957

  7. Mary Lanning Hospital materials, 1946-1983

Series 2 – Correspondence, 1923-1991

  1. Letters written by Martha Sheldon, 1923-1983

  2. Letters from family members received by Martha Sheldon, 1920-1968

  3. Letters related to her career as a nurse received by Martha Sheldon, 1928-1965

  4. Letters from Rosa Studier to Martha Sheldon, 1929-1950

  5. Miscellaneous letters received by Martha Sheldon, 1931-1991

Series 3 – Miscellaneous

  1. Clippings, mostly re. Mary Lanning Hospital, 1965-1973

  2. Woman’s Club materials, 1932-1939

  3. Oral history transcript

  4. Miscellaneous



Education — Nebraska — Barneston

Education — Nebraska — Lincoln

Lincoln High School (Lincoln, Neb.)

Lincoln Sanitarium (Lincoln, Neb.)

Nursing schools — Nebraska — Lincoln

Nurses — Nebraska

Sheldon, Martha Hermine (Jansen), 1903-1994

Stella (Neb.) — Clubs

Stella Research Club (Stella, Neb.)

Williams, Ellis A.


BQ/kfk   01-17-2003

Revised   04-28-2004

Encoded TMM   11-02-2011