A Fitting Tribute for a Dedicated Woman, Paintings From the Egan Art Collection are Now On Display at the New Nantucket Cottage Hospital
By Michelle Cartwright Soverino
Part of the Egan Art Collection is now on display at the new Nantucket Cottage Hospital (NCH) on Prospect Street: eighteen paintings by former nurse and close friend of Bud and Dorothy Egan, Ethel Anderson. Egan Maritime is the keeper of more than forty of her original paintings—nearly her entire body of work—and was pleased to work with NCH staff and volunteers to arrange for eighteen of those paintings to be on permanent loan to the Hostpital. In a fitting tribute to Ethel, she now has her own gallery display in the Interventional Services hallway located on the second floor of the new building.
Ethel was born on May 29, 1891 in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from the Hospital School of Nursing in Taunton, Massachusetts. Ethel enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in 1917 and was sent to Base Hospital 44 in Paris, France. She was one of twenty nurses chosen to be transferred from Paris to the front lines in France and Belgium, where she stayed until the end of World War I. Following the War, Ethel worked as a nursing assistant, and also continued her studies in Vienna, Austria.
The Nantucket Cottage Hospital brought Ethel to Nantucket in the 1940s to fill the position of Assistant Superintendent to Miss Frances West. Ethel was not only a Registered Nurse but also a Registered Laboratory and X-Ray Technician and Anesthetist. In 1947, she was appointed acting Superintendent of NCH.
Ethel was a very involved Nantucketer. She served on the board of the Nantucket Historical Association as Secretary and Treasurer during her tenure. She was also Secretary of The Homestead, then known as the “Old People’s Home,” and volunteered at the Nantucket Atheneum where she helped with the annual summer book sale. Ethel’s hobbies were of the creative kind. She decorated shop windows on Main Street during the holiday season; crafted room-size hooked rugs, and painted Nantucket lamp shades and canvas tote bags. After her retirement from NCH, she took up oil painting and created an impressive body of work.
During her time on the island, Ethel became a close friend of Egan Maritime’s founder, Bud Egan, his wife—who was a dietician at the Hospital—Dorothy H. Egan, and their young daughter, Jane. It was Jane who was especially close to Ethel. Not only were they neighbors on Chicken Hill—just a stone’s throw away from the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, but Jane was born with Juvenile Diabetes and spent a lot of time at NCH during her youth while Ethel was on staff.
Egan Maritime is delighted to have a new venue to share Ethel’s whimsical work, and the new Hospital seems a fitting place to give tribute to her life’s work. “All of us at Egan Maritime find Ethel remarkable and a woman far ahead of her time. She not only dedicated her life to the service of others—from her profession to her personal time—but she was full of vigor too. Ethel served as a woman on the front lines far removed from home, and somehow ended up on Nantucket making friends with the Egans,” said Pauline Proch, Egan Maritime's Executive Director. “As we celebrate thirty years, it’s a joy to share the Egan’s art collection across the island. I hope patients and visitors at the new Hospital will be inspired by her colorful works as they walk down the Interventional Services hallway. And, hopefully one or two will take a moment to read Ethel’s story and marvel at her fortitude.”
Ethel never exhibited, named, or sold her paintings, and when she died in 1969 she left her entire estate—including every original oil painting—to Jane Egan. Jane passed away in 1972, and Ethel’s paintings became part of Bud and Dorothy Egan’s collection of Nantucket art. Until the mid-90s, her works were exhibited at five year intervals at the Coffin School, the Nantucket Historical Association’s Fair Street Museum, and the art gallery at Marine Home Center. Their refreshing, straightforward, naive style attracted favorable comments and several offers to buy, which the Egans always declined. The paintings are much like Ethel: charming, serene, and devoted to Nantucket.
The following paintings are not on display at the new Hospital.