Excerpt from Remembering a Mission Belle's Legacy by Robert A. Poarch
As we celebrate National Nurses Week at Mission, a recent donation to the hospital from Norma Spencer reminds us of how much nursing has changed over the years. Norma's gift was a blue Mission Belle cape and white hat worn by her mother, Dorothy Butler, in the late 1940s. Dorothy was so tiny when she was born in 1927 in Gatlinburg, Tenn., she could fit inside of a shoebox. Though Dorothy was always small in stature, she would leave a large legacy at Mission Hospital. Dorothy - who married Ralph Bull and was known most of her life by her married name of Dorothy Bull - came to Asheville in 1946 as a Mission Belle through a government program to train nurses for the Army. From 1893 to 1971, Mission Hospital operated a hospital-based nursing school that would eventually become the Memorial Mission Hospital School of Nursing. Unlike today, the Mission Belles, as they were called, trained together for three years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Not only did the nurses receive exceptional training, they shared a sense of community and formed fond memories. After graduation in 1949, Dorothy continued her training (pediatrics and neonatal) in Washington, D.C., and New Jersey. The Mission Belle returned to Asheville in the 1950s, where she would marry and work at Mission Hospital until she retired in the early 1980s. Dorothy passed away in 2013. "If you were born in Asheville between 1950 and 1980, my mother probably saw you naked," Norma said, and laughed, when asked about her mother's legacy at Mission Hospital. "Thousands of babies went through her nursery. She loved the babies."