Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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WOMEN of EARLY OCONTO COUNTY



Mary Murray
1902 - 1961
The Nurse Who Fought Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis was the number one cause of death in northeastern Wisconsin in the early years of the 20th century. By 1900 nearly every family living in the area was touched by a TB caused death, with many families completely stricken and decimated. This was a time before antibiotics. Isolation, fresh air, clean environment, rest and proper nutrition were the most effective treatment. Education on how to stop the spread and vigilant monitoring of the population were key to containing this epidemic, which lasted for generations. 

Tuberculosis took several forms, with the lungs often the most affected. Symptoms of the disease included increased coughing, shortness of breath, painful breathing, gradually increasing physical weakness, and finally, fatal hemorrhage. Spinal, or meningial, infection was also a killing crippler. It left the few survivors bent and contorted; struggling for every step they could take. Death was generally a slow and painful process which took years. All ages were at risk of infection. Although not considered an easily acquired disease by today's standards, Tuberculosis spread rapidly and fatally throughout the population of that time.

For more than 30 years, Mary M. Murphy was field nurse for Morgan Heights Sanitarium and was called "the most effective single factor in our county in our fight against tuberculosis" in neighboring Marinette County, her adopted home.

Miss Murray was born in Oconto County, August 26, 1902 in Stiles, Wis., moving when a small girl with her parents to the Oconto Falls, from where she was graduated high school. After being graduated from St. Mary's school of Nursing, Green Bay, she went into public health work in Lansing and later in West Bend, Wis. 

In 1956, the Marquette District Nurses Association and the Morgan heights personnel cooperated in sponsoring a 25th anniversary testimonial dinner for her at which time she drew tribute from state and national organizations, the schools, and professional people throughout the Peninsula for her dedicated work. 

Dr. James R. Acocks, superintendent of Morgan heights,  said at the time of Miss Murray's death, "We have
lost the most effective single factor in our county in the fight against tuberculosis. ForMiss Murray, the work of field nurse was not a job, but a pattern of living. She devoted all her energizes to it. No task was too small, or too big for her attention. Her casehistories were a model of meticulous detail. Yet it was her work with the school children that she had her greatest value." 

"Miss Murray had the confidence of every child, the cooperation of every school official. The result was a steady series of years of fruitful results in the campaign to eradicate tuberculosis." 

"Marquette County schools have one of the state's finest records in this phase of their work and I know every school official will agree with me that the dominating reason for such a status was the devoted and dedicated attention given by Miss Murray." 

Ogden E, Johnson, Ishpeming, for 13 years president of the Marquette County Tuberculosis Association, said "Miss Murray was a conscientious person who made the association program work. The goal of our group is to conduct the educational campaign and to raise funds for rehabilitation and to contribute to research effort. If any part of our program ever lagged, Miss Murray took it as a personal responsibility and redoubled her already arduous efforts. Surely it can be said of her she gave her life to the cause. "

She was survived by five brothers, Bart, Oconto Falls, Wis.; Thomas, Spooner, Wis. and John, Joseph and James, Milwaukee, a sister, Mrs. Agnes M. Felton, Woodlawn, Tenn., and several nieces and nephews. 

Funeral services were conducted in St. Anthony's Church, Oconto Falls and burial took place in the Stiles (Wis.) Cemetery.
 

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