Alice Magaw
1860 - 1928

Photo of Alice Magaw's  grave by Nancy Harris

Nancy A. Harris

Alice Magaw was born on November 9, 1860 in Coshocton, Ohio to Thomas and Nancy Elizabeth Magaw. In 1881, the Magaw family relocated to the Five Corners area of Rochester, Minnesota. Magaw, twenty-seven years old, and her friend Edith Graham and Edith's older sister, Dinah, attended the nurses training school at Women's and Children's Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Following graduation in 1889, Magaw was employed as a private duty nurse in Chicago.

In anticipation of the marriage of Dr. Charles Mayo and Edith, Magaw returned to Rochester on March 3, 1893 and assumed Edith's anesthesia duties. Demonstrating the versatility and intelligence that the Mayo's expected from their staff, Magaw maintained a desk at Mayo and served as anesthetist for Drs. William Worrall, William J., and Charles H. Mayo. In response to the changing criteria for pre-anesthetic evaluation of surgical patients, Magaw was sent to Chicago for a course in the use of the microscope. Upon return, the pathology lab of the medical practice and St. Mary's Hospital was added to her duties.

Magaw, unlike any other bedside nurses of her time, expanded her nursing role to include: research, publication, public speaking, education and advocacy. During her tenure at Mayo, Magaw published five articles on anesthesia and delivered two of her papers before medical societies. Her delivery of fourteen thousand anesthetics without an anesthesia-related death, a phenomenal record at the time, established a record for the safety of the practice of anesthesia by nurses.

Magaw married Dr. George Kessel, a fifty-two year old widow with four children, on May 23, 1908. The Kessels lived in Cresco, Iowa. Magaw continued her anesthesia career delivering anesthetics to patient's at the Kessel Hospital. The Kessels separated in 1919. Magaw returned to practice at Mayo briefly during the early 1920s.

Magaw died from complications of diabetes on February 17, 1928. After a funeral in Rochester and a private family funeral in Corunna, Michigan, Magaw was buried in the Pine Tree Cemetery in Corunna, Michigan.

Alice Magaw's Publications:

"Observations in Anæsthesia," Northwestern Lancet 19 (1899): 207-10.

"Observations on 1092 Cases of Anesthesia from Jan. 1, 1899 to Jan. 1, 1900," The St. Paul Medical Journal 2 (1900): 306-11.

"A Report of 245 Cases of Anesthesia by Nitrous Oxide Gas and Ether," The St. Paul Medical Journal 3 (1901): 231-33.

"Observations Drawn from an Experience of Eleven Thousand Anesthesias," Transactions of the Minnesota State Medical Association (1904): 91-99.

"A Review of Over Fourteen Thousand Surgical Anæsthesias," Surgery, Gynecology, and Obstetrics 3 no.6 (1906): 795-99.

Photo by Nancy Harris

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