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Kentucky Nurses Association records

Identifier: L1978-20

Scope and Content of the Records

The records document the founding of the Kentucky Nurses Association; its development as a professional organization concerned with the legal, economic and professional status, education, and training of nurses; its evolution as a collective bargaining agent for nurses; the day-to-day administration of the association's affairs by the executive secretary; and the relationship between KNA, the American Nurses Association (ANA), other associations of health care professionals, and local, state and federal governments.

The bulk of the records originated in the office of the Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA) Executive Director (formerly Secretary), and includes files of KNA officeholders who transferred their personal files to the executive office. Sections or committees created some files. KNA records dating before the creation of an executive office in 1933 consist of minutes of the executive board and of the eastern and western districts; district financial reports; minutes of annual meetings and reports made to the meeting by committees, sections, and districts; clippings and some ephemera; printed by-laws and constitutions; and a few items collected by or donated to the Historical Committee (see Series V).

The director’s office records (Series IV) include incoming and outgoing correspondence, financial reports, publicity materials, clippings, membership lists, and other files maintained by the executive staff. The staff also created separate files related to the board of directors, committees, commissions, boards, districts and sections of KNA; these include minutes, correspondence, reports, and other materials. The bulk of the records were created under executive secretary Nelle V. Weller (who served 1957-1973) and her successor, Sharon Smith (1974-1978). Weller’s predecessors in the position—Elsie Pearson (1933-1953), Myrtle Applegate (1935-1946), Marion Sprague (1944-1949), and Cynthia Neel Warren (1949-1957)—are less well represented in the records. Weller increased the role and influence of the executive secretary and the size of the headquarters staff.

The organization of the records follows the organizational structure of KNA. Therefore, material regarding various policy or political matters can be located according to the division of KNA most involved. Legislation, both state and federal, is a primary topic in these records, especially those of the Executive Office (Series IV), the Board of Directors (Series II), and Legislative Committee (Series V). Education and standards are another important topic, records of which exist in various locations. For example, federally funded programs of the 1960s to study nursing staffing and educational needs, are documented in the Executive Office (Series IV), the Continuing Education and Nursing Resources Committees (Series V), and in the District 1 refresher course (Series VII). However, KNA sections typically maintain employment standards for nurses and nurse-practitioners in specific fields, and records related to those standards can be found in the Sections series (Series VII), Executive Office (Series IV), and Board of Director files (Series II).

Materials related to KNA’s role as a collective bargaining agent, especially for nurses in federal government installations, and its emphasis on organizing nurses is well documented by correspondence, reports, and clippings of the Executive Office (Series IV) and in the minutes and correspondence of the Economic and General Welfare Committee (Series V). Most of this material dates from the late 1960s onward.

KNA's organizational structure and policy approach tends to mirror that of the American Nurses Association, of which it is a constituent. Scattered throughout the records are correspondence and other manuscripts documenting KNA's relationship with ANA and other state nursing organizations. Items published by ANA make up Series IX, Subseries B, Sub-subseries 1.

The records reflect KNA's evolution, and document the development of its internal structure and leadership; the day-to-day administration of its affairs, particularly finances and membership; the expanding role of its executive secretary (especially Nelle V. Weller) and other staff; and the growth in size and complexity of its annual meeting. Because the nursing profession and KNA itself are predominantly female, these records also reflect the concerns, needs, and changing status of women.

The records contain only limited information on the practice of nursing, primarily in convention programs, statements by various sections and committees, and collected publications.


  • Creation: 1906-1990
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1957 - 1977


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research use. Access to sound recordings is currently restricted.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Georgia State University is the owner of the physical collection and makes reproductions available for research, subject to the copyright law of the United States and item condition. Georgia State University may or may not own the rights to materials in the collection. It is the researcher's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and obtain permission from the copyright holder before publication, reproduction, or display of the materials beyond what is reasonable under copyright law. Researchers may quote selections from the collection under the fair use provision of copyright law.

Oversized Materials stored offsite. Allow at least 2 working days for retrieval.

History of the Kentucky Nurses Association

The Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA) was organized in 1906 by nurses wanting to assure that those who care for patients in Kentucky are professionally trained, licensed, and regulated. From its first convention in 1907, KNA (originally known as Kentucky State Association of Graduate Nurses) has worked towards professional standards in the education and licensing of nurses by means of legislation and the Kentucky Board of Nursing. KNA also promotes high quality care for all patients through publications, policy statements, legislation, cooperation with other health care professionals, and representation on agencies and commissions. Authorized to act as a collective bargaining agent by its members in 1946, KNA began to exercise that function in the late 1960s. From its founding, KNA has been affiliated with the American Nurses Association (ANA), and is part of its tiered membership structure. Individual nurses simultaneously join a KNA district (the first two were founded in 1918), the state organization, and ANA.

The initial meeting, organized by graduate nurses from the John M. Norton Memorial Infirmary Alumnae Association and the Jefferson County Graduate Nurses Association, convened in Louisville. A representative of the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the U.S. and Canada (which evolved into the American Nurses Association) assisted the Kentucky nurses in creating and adopting by-laws, electing officers, and calling a statewide meeting for 1907. The national organization also assisted with drafting a nurse practice act, which was approved at the 1907 convention.

The annual meeting continues to be the governing body of KNA. (The name of the organization was changed to Kentucky State Association of Registered Nurses in 1919 and to Kentucky Nurses Association in 1964.) At the annual meeting, the membership enacts resolutions establishing association policy and elects a president and board of directors. Committees (permanent and ad hoc), commissions and boards, appointed by the board and president, manage association affairs, study and recommend policy; implement policy set by the membership, and represent KNA. Since 1920, KNA members have also had the option of belonging to councils (formerly known as sections) based upon their area of practice or the institutional setting of their employment. The number and names of these councils, which also elect their own officers, have varied over the history of their existence. These voluntary councils now organize much of the program of the annual meeting and many specialized workshops.

KNA is further organized by district and maintains a separate administrative staff to coordinate the organization. KNA adopted a district plan, in line with the American Nurses Association’s new membership structure, in 1918. With the exception of old District 12, which served the Frontier Nursing Service, geography defines the districts. From the original Eastern and Western districts, KNA increased to 20 districts (designated by number since 1933) by the late 1970s. In 1996, it reorganized to 11. Local nurses petition to create them and the KNA Board approves their constitution and by-laws, but districts are otherwise autonomous. They elect their own officers, may have their own sections, plan local programs and sponsor workshops. Since 1933, KNA has employed an Executive Director (formerly Executive Secretary), appointed by the Board of Directors, to manage day-to-day activities. From the late 1950s onward, the activities and importance of this professional manager have increased.

As the professional organization for nurses in Kentucky, KNA works to maintain and enhance nurses’ status, working conditions, and salary. It also serves as the voice of the nursing profession, making statements and affecting policy regarding patients’ issues and health care generally. Obtaining acceptable state and national laws to define and regulate the practice of nursing was an early goal. The first Kentucky Nurse Practice Act, drafted by KNA in 1907 and passed by the legislature in 1914, created the mechanism, controlled substantially by the association, for licensing Kentucky's nurses and nursing education programs. According to the law, KNA makes all nominations to the Board of Examiners for Trained Nurses (later renamed the Board of Nursing Education and Nurse Registration), from which the governor names members. The Board was given both the authority to examine and certify candidates for licensure, and the power to revoke nursing licenses for cause. KNA's annual meeting holds sole power to hear appeals of board decisions. In subsequent decades, lobbying by the association strengthened the law by requiring annual renewal of licenses (1920) and additional training and payment for renewal of lapsed licenses (1942). KNA lobbied successfully for law to define the scope of registered and practical nursing, and to license practical nurses through a subsidiary of the registered nurses board (1946, 1950). In the 1960s and 1970s, the legislative interests of the association broadened to include mandatory nurse representation on government health agencies and boards, including those writing health care standards for federally-funded programs; planning and funding for nursing education and manpower development; improving salaries and working conditions for nurses in tax-supported institutions; and securing collective bargaining rights for public employees. More recently, KNA has taken positions on patients’ rights, health care costs and similar issues.

KNA has acted as a collective bargaining agent for its members since the 1960s. Bargaining units (or chapters) were established in a number of public and private health agencies, and KNA participated in a campaign to unionize state employees.

For further information on the history and structure of KNA, see Fifty Years of Service, 1906-1956 and other publications and materials collected by the Historical Committee (see finding aid, Series V, VIII).


21.2 Linear Feet (in 55 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA) was organized in 1906 by nurses wanting to assure that those who care for patients in Kentucky are professionally trained, licensed, and regulated. The records document the founding of the Kentucky Nurses Association; its development as a professional organization concerned with the legal, economic and professional status, education, and training of nurses; its evolution as a collective bargaining agent for nurses; the day-to-day administration of the association's affairs by the executive secretary; and the relationship between KNA, the American Nurses Association (ANA), other associations of health care professionals, and local, state and federal governments.

Organization of the Records

Although most of these records originated in the association's headquarters, the arrangement of the records follows the organizational structure of the association.

Organized into 11 series:

  1. Series I. Annual Meetings/Reports
  2. Series II. Board of Directors
  3. Series III. Constitutions and by-laws
  4. Series IV. Executive Office
  5. Series V. Committees, Commissions, and Boards
  6. Series VI. Sections/Special Interest Groups
  7. Series VII. Districts
  8. Series VIII. Publications
  9. Series IX. Collected scrapbooks and printed material
  10. Series X. Audiovisual material
  11. Series XI. Artifacts

Kentucky Nurses Association records arrived in two major accessions, L1978-20 and L1991-01. Files from L1991-01 have been integrated into the arrangement created for L1978-20. The original accession is in boxes 1463-1500, the second accession (denoted L1991-01 in folder titles) is in boxes 1-10, Oversize 1-2, Photographs 1, Sound/video 1-2.

Off-Site Storage

Oversized Materials stored offsite. Allow at least 2 working days for retrieval.

Acquisition Information

Donated by the Kentucky Nurses Association in 1978 (accession L1978-20, 1991 (accession L1991-01), and 1992 (L1992-26).

Online Availability

The photographs in this collection may have been digitized and are available online at Georgia State University Library Digital Collections.

Separated Materials

During processing, materials from the 1978 accession were separated to other Southern Labor Archives Printed Collections. For periodicals, see the Southern Labor Archives Periodicals Collection finding aid or catalog. For photographs, see the Southern Labor Archives Photographs Collection finding aid. For constitutions and bylaws consult Special Collections for access. Similar materials that arrived as part of accession L1991-01 were not separated and form Series III, Series X, and portions of Series VIII-IX.

Southern Labor Archives Constitutions and Bylaws Collection

  1. Kentucky Nurses Association (Kentucky State Association of Registered Nurses) Bylaws, June 1919, June 1925, October 1935, October 1937, October 1945-1946, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1958-1960, October 1962, 1962-1965, October 1967, 1967-1970, 1976
  2. Western District: Constitution and Bylaws, December 1919, June 1924, June 1930
  3. First District: Constitution and bylaws, June 1935, April 1936, December 1938, January 1943
  4. First District: Bylaws, 1950; January 1955, 1969
  5. Second District: Constitution and Bylaws, November 1953, September 1959
  6. Second District: Bylaws, June 1969
  7. Third District: Constitution and Bylaws, 1941
  8. Fifth District: Constitution and Bylaws, March 1949
  9. Sixth District: Constitution and Bylaws, 1954

Southern Labor Archives Periodicals Collection

  1. Newsletter (Kentucky Nurses Association), (month unknown) 1946, July 1947; February, July, December 1948, April 1950, September 1951, January 1952, March/April 1953-June 1968, December 1968-August/September 1974, October/November-November/December 1974
  2. Tar Heel Nurse (North Carolina State Nurses Association), July-August, September 1973
  3. Texas Nursing (Texas Nurses Association), October 1974
  4. The Weather Vane (West Virginia Nurses Association), October 1974

Southern Labor Archives Photographs Collection

  1. Unidentified
  2. Graduating Class of 1928
  3. Marrie Turner, 1969
  4. Unidentified woman, circa 1970
  5. L. Mae McPhetridge, 1970
  6. Lucy A. Erwin, circa 1950
  7. Graduating Class of St. Elizabeth, undated
  8. KSARN convention, 1962
  9. KSARN convention, 1962
  10. KSARN convention, 1962
  11. KSARN convention (Carlton B. Knotts, Georgia Snyder, Jimmy Stoner), 1962
  12. [no record]
  13. VA Hospital - Louisville contract signing (Nelle Weller, William Crofts), 1970
  14. VA Hospital - Louisville contract signing (William Crofts, group), 1970
  15. Lexington VA Hospital contract signing, 1970
  16. Miss [Edna?] Henninger, unidentified, circa 1936
  17. Dedication of Henninger Hall (Edwina Roberts, unidentified), 1957
  18. Dedication of Henninger Hall (unidentified women), 1957


Finding aid created by E. Garrison, processed at the file level, 1982. Later accessions processed and described by William Hardesty at the file level, 2004.

Kentucky Nurses Association:
A Guide to Its Records at Georgia State University Library
Georgia State University Library
1978, 1992
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

100 Decatur St., S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
404-413-2881 (Fax)