James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Archives: AIDS @ 30--Part 1 Caregivers

Photo (c) Sibylla Herbrich (GLC 53 Annemarie Madison Papers)

The AIDS crisis has been part of our lives for 30 years. It often takes decades to comprehend fully the impact of such a crisis, both as it affects our daily lives and in terms of the longstanding cultural and political effects. Our understanding is based on a combination of personal experience, reflection, and research on how the politics and social concerns of the day addressed (or failed to address) the urgent needs of a community that seemed to increase in size daily.

There are several archival collections in the Hormel Center and in the San Francisco History Center that lend perspective to this important chapter in San Francisco and world history. In this blog post, we'll highlight some of the collections that focus on AIDS caregivers;  later posts will focus on collections about People with AIDS and on government records.

GLC 53 Madison Papers

The Annemarie Madison Papers, the San Francisco General Hospital Ward 5B/5A Records, and Regional Oral History Office's interview transcripts are important sources for examining the AIDS crisis through the eyes of its caregivers.

The Annemarie Madison Papers record the many lives touched by Madison in her work as an AIDS volunteer. When the AIDS epidemic began, Madison asked the Public Health director of San Francisco how she could help. He referred her to Shanti and Coming Home Hospice, where she applied to be a volunteer and was accepted by Coming Home. Gradually, more and more of her patients came as referrals through friends, rather than through hospice. Madison guided these men through the dying process, helping them to pass on with dignity and love.

She maintained files on each person, keeping notes on their cases and their needs, photos, and correspondence with them and their families. The photos often include images of these men before they became ill, and they occasionally include images of them during their hospitalization. Most files contain obituary notices or memorial service programs.

What is clear throughout the Madison collection is her respect for each person, her compassion, and her regret for each life taken too soon. The Madison Papers also contain a small amount of AIDS education materials for hospice volunteers; and audiovisual materials, including interviews with Madison, television news programs with AIDS "progress" reports, and songs produced to raise awareness.

Photo (c) Sibylla Herbrich (GLC 53 Madison Papers)

Madison and her work was profiled in several newspaper and magazine articles. In 1995, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany awarded Madison the Order of Merit, First Class, of the Federal Republic of Germany for her work in the AIDS crisis. In 1996, the Kuratorium for Immune Deficiency (Munich) created the Annemarie Madison Award to honor those who contribute to improving care for AIDS.

Another extraordinary resource is the San Francisco General Hospital AIDS Ward 5B/5A Records. San Francisco General Hospital's Ward 5B, the first dedicated AIDS hospital ward in the United States, opened with 12 beds on July 25, 1983 and included both AIDS and hospice patients. Cliff Morrison, a former Clinical Nurse Specialist in psychiatry, was the first nurse manager. Capacity quickly proved to be inadequate, so on Jan. 17, 1986, the ward was moved to the 20-bed Ward 5A.

In the mid-1990s, with the availability of new drugs called protease inhibitors, the number of AIDS patients decreased sufficiently that the ward began admitting non-AIDS-related oncology patients. With its interdisciplinary approach, Ward 5B/5A set a new standard in AIDS-related medical care.

GLC 53 Annemarie Madison Papers
The AIDS Ward collection contains scrapbooks, communication books, head nurses' files, correspondence, videotapes, publications, and memorabilia collected by the nursing staff of AIDS Ward 5B/5A. The collection documents daily life on the ward among patients, their families and friends, nurses, and volunteers. Of note are the photos of public events and celebrations, minutes of nursing staff meetings, and copies of the "Best Hospitals" issues of US News and World Report, 1991-1997. The collection also reflects the changing role of nursing, as 5B/5A nurses were critical to the development of the multidisciplinary model of AIDS care that came to be known as the "San Francisco model."

GLC 53 Annemarie Madison Papers
In addition to these two archival collections, the San Francisco History Center has transcripts of oral histories conducted by the Regional Oral History Office at the University of California, Berkeley. The subject is AIDS in San Francisco during the years 1981-1984. You can find the transcripts of these interviews listed in the library's online catalog. These include doctors' and nurses' views, as well as those of AIDS health educators. 

All of the materials listed above are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. The photographs are available during the hours for the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.