Born: September 20, 1880
Died: November 30, 1952
Kenny was an Australian nurse who as early as 1910 had reported treating polio cases in the bush back "to normalcy." She was told by the orthopedic surgeons of the time that her ideas violated the accepted rules for treatment, among which was immobilization (e.g., splinting, plaster casting.) In the the '40s, she wrote articles and visited the United States to promote her ideas regarding the use of warm moist packs to relax muscles, and to focus on reeducating the muscles that were left.
Brief biography: Sister Elizabeth Kenny was born in Australia and completed her nursing training there. In World War I, Kenny served as an Australian Army nurse and was promoted to the rank of "sister," the Nurse Corps equivalent to a first lieutenant.
She came to the USA in 1940. She was used to skepticism and ended up in Minneapolis (Medical School of the University of Minnesota) where her ideas received immediate support. Three years later she became director of the Elizabeth Kenny Institute. In 1943, Basel O'Connor of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) met with advisors and acknowledged some of her ideas. However, a schism developed partly because the NFIP, according to John R. Paul in History of Poliomyelitis, wanted to take Sister Kenny under its wing, while she hoped to take the NFIP under her wing.
Three years after her death in 1952, the Sister Kenny Foundation was formed by her supporters. The Sister Kenny Foundation supported a trial of the oral vaccine in 1957-59 and later funded two worldwide conferences by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to discuss the pros and cons of the live oral vaccine. At this time, the NFIP was concentrating its energies on the inactivated Salk-type vaccine and the activities funded by the Sister Kenny Foundation were instrumental in the eventual licensing decision.
Audio program available from Minnesota Public Radio.
Her work is recognized in the 1946 movie "Sister Kenny," starring Rosalind Russell, who won an Oscar for Best Actress that year.
Description of papers: The Elizabeth Kenny Papers document the nurse's life and career and includes correspondence, telegrams, a typed transcript of an autobiography, reports and essays, photocopied legal documents, motion picture scripts, newsletters, photographs, scrapbooks, printed matter, journal articles, and newspaper clippings. Contains details on the collection, and a list of additional repositories of Kenny archives.
Nurse Irene Shea Studies the “Kenny Method” of Treatment of Infantile Paralysis, 1942-1943. Golden, Janet and Naomi Rogers. Nursing History Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2010: pp. 189-203.
Articles found at HighWire Press® Stanford University (*Asterisk denotes article is free of subscription fee.)
Sister Elizabeth Kenny and the Evolution of the Occupational Division of Labour in Health Care. Evan Willis. Journal of Sociology, Jan 1979; 15: 30 - 38.
The Kenny Treatment For Infantile Paralysis: A Comparison Of Results With Those Of Older Methods Of Treatment.* Robert Bingham. J. Bone Joint Surg. Am., Jul 1943; 25: 647 - 650.
The Kenny Concept Of Infantile Paralysis And Its Treatment.* Richard Kovács. Am J Public Health, Nov 1943; 33: 1360 - 1361.
Analysis Of Neuromuscular Disorders In Poliomyelitis.* Joseph Moldaver. J. Bone Joint Surg. Am., Jan 1944; 26: 103 - 117.
Historical Reviews: Orthopaedic Surgery In The United States Of America.* Leo Mayer. J Bone Joint Surg Br, Nov 1950; 32-B: 461 - 569.
Stroke Rehabilitation.* Mieczyslaw Peszczynski, Chairman, D. Frank Benson, Joyce M. Collins, Frederic L. Darley, Leonard Diller, Arnold H. Greenhouse, Faye P. Katzen, Lorraine F. Lake, June S. Rothberg, and Raymond W. Waggoner. Stroke, May 1972; 3: 375 - 407.
Articles Found at ScienceDirect.com
Biography: Sister Elizabeth Kenny: A controversial participant in the war against polio B.Lee Ligon. Seminars in Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Volume 11, Issue 4, October 2000, Pages 287-291.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny Revisited. Florence P. Kendall Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Volume 79, Issue 4, April 1998, Pages 361-365.
Articles found at JSTOR
The Kenny Healing Cult: Preliminary Analysis of Leadership and Patterns of Interaction. J. E. Hulett, Jr. American Sociological Review > Vol. 10, No. 3 (Jun., 1945), pp. 364-372. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-1224%28194506%2910%3A3%3C364%3ATKH...
Author(s) of Review: Naomi Rogers. Reviewed Work(s): Sister Kenny. Isis > Vol. 84, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 772-774. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021-1753%28199312%2984%3A4%3C772%3ASK%...
From Multiple Health Systems, Inc. © Minnesota Medicine. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Medical Association, 1918-present. MHS call number: R11 .M6 (in the Serials Collection). (Note: This serial is indexed in MedLine, which is available at the University of Minnesota's Biomedical Library in Diehl Hall.)
"Sister Kenny's Fierce Fight for Better Polio Care: She was Obstinate and Not Open About Her Own Background, But She Nevertheless Was Responsible for a Revolution in Medicine," by Victor Cohn. In Smithsonian, vol. 12, no. 8 (Nov. 1981): pp. 180-200. MHS call number: RD796.S57 C65 1981.
Articles from WorldCat™
Homemaking aids for the disabled. Ian Sanderson; Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Minneapolis : Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation, ©1963. Located at University of Oklahoma, Health Science Center Library Oklahoma City, Franciscan University of Steubenville Steubenville, OH, University of Pennsylvania Libraries Philadelphia, PA, Clinton Community College, Plattsburgh, NY.
Kenny R.E.H.A.B. (photographs), 1950s and 1986. Located at University of Michigan, Bentley Hist Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
Rehabilitation: a report by the Rehabilitation Services Division of the Sister Kenny Foundation. (motion picture) 1957. Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation. Minneapolis, MN.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny. Henry Thomas New York, Putnam.©1958. Available at 158 librairies.
Healing Warrior: A Story About Sister Elizabeth Kenny. (Creative Minds Biographies) (Library Binding) Emily Crofford (Author), Steve Michaels (Illustrator). Book : Juvenile audience Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, ©1989. Available at 869 libraries.
American nursing : a biographical dictionary. Vern L Bullough; Olga Maranjian Church; Alice P Stein; Lilli Sentz New York, NY : Garland, 1988-2000. Available at 884 libraries.
And They Shall Walk; the Life Story of Sister Elizabeth Kenny. Elizabeth Kenny and Martha Ostenso. New York, Dodd, Mead, 1943. Available at 660 libraries.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny. Adam Wirtzfeld. Minnesota : www.wrenchintheworks.com, ©2004. Available at the Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny revisited. FP Kendall Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 1998 Apr; 79(4): 361-5 Database: From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Available at 979 libraries.
100 Women Who Shaped World History. Gail Meyer Rolka. San Francisco, CA : Bluewood Books, 1994. Available at 578 libraries. Heroic nurses. Robin McKown. 1966. Available at 644 libraries.
Biography of Sister Elizabeth Kenny. Buffalo, NY: The Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation of Buffalo, Inc.1947. Located at Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Rare Books. Buffalo, NY
Extraordinary Women of Medicine. Darlene R Stille. Book : Elementary and junior high school New York: Children's Press, ©1997. Located at 417 libraries.
The Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Minneapolis : Division of Information Services, Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation. 1947. Located at Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN 55102 United States; San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, CA.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian nurse, and treatment of poliomyelitis victims. SR Oppewal Image--the journal of nursing scholarship, 1997 Spring; 29(1): 83-7 MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Located at 868 libraries.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny : maverick heroine of the polio treatment controversy. Wade Alexander. Rockhampton, Qld. : Central Queensland University Press, 2003. Located at Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, MN; University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY ; Library of Congress, Washington, DC; National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD; New York University, New York, NY; Christchurch City Libraries, Christchurch, 8140 New Zealand; UQ Library, Brisbane, QLD 4072 Australia.
The Story of the Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation in the Fight Against Polio. Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation. 1950. Located at Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, MN. The Kenny concept of infantile paralysis and its treatment. John Florian M Pohl and Elizabeth Kenny; Minneapolis, MN: Bruce. 1943. Located at 156 libraries.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny's role in changing the treatment of polio during the 1940s. Cheri Staab; Thesis/dissertation/manuscript Archival Material. 2005. Located at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Mankato, MN.
The contribution of Sister Elizabeth Kenny to the treatment of poliomyelitis. Me Knapp. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 1955 Aug; 36(8): 510-7. Database: From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Located at 979 libraries.
Serving America's disabled: the great mission of the Sister Elizabeth Kenny foundation. HH Humphrey. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 1962 Apr; 43: 186-90 MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Located at 979 libraries.
Guest star spots. (sound recording: non-music) 1952 Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation. Minneapolis, MN: Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation. 1952. Located at Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540 United States.
And tThey Shall Walk; the Life Story of Sister Elizabeth Kenny. Elizabeth Kenny. London: R. Hale. 1951. Located at 88 libraries.
Polio and the Kenny method. Minneapolis: Division of Information Services, Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation. 1947. Located Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, MN.
Sister Kenny. Rosalind Russell and Elizabeth Kenny. (video recording: VHS tape) 1990. Turner Home Entertainment, ©1990. Located at 62 libraries. And they shall walk : if you will help! Minneapolis,MN: Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation. 1945. Located at Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, MN.
Trumpets of Attack: Collaborative Efforts Between Nursing and Philanthropies to Care for the Child Crippled with Polio 1930 to 1959. Kimberly Ferren Carter. Public Health Nursing, 18, no. 4 (2001): 253-261. Blackwell Science. Located at 798 libraries.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny. The Physical therapy review, 1953 Feb; 33(2): 81. MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Located at 291 libraries.
I knew Sister Kenny; a story of a great lady and little people. Herbert Jerome Levine. Boston,:Christopher Pub. House. 1954. Located at 48 libraries.
The Sylvia stretcher: a perspective of Sister Elizabeth Kenny's contribution to the first-aid management of injured patients. J Pearn. The Medical journal of Australia, 1988 Dec 5-19; 149(11-12): 636-8 MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Located at 511 libraries.
A Dogma Upended From Down Under: Sister Elizabeth Kenny's Polio Treatment. Mark W Swaim. North Carolina medical journal. 59, no. 4, (1998): 256. Durham, NC: North Carolina Medical Society. Located at 316 libraries.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny and the evolution of the occupational division of labour in health care. E Willis. The Australian and New Zealand journal of sociology, 1979; 15(3): 30-8. MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Located at 390 libraries.
A Brief resume of the story of Sister Elizabeth Kenny and the Elizabeth Kenny Institute for Infantile Paralysis. Elizabeth Kenny Institute. Board of. 1944.Located at Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, MN.
The True Book About Sister Kenny. Eileen Bigland. London: Muller. ©1956.Located at Library of Congress, Washington, DC; National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD ; New York Public Library - Research, New York, NY Saint Johns University Library, Jamaica, NY; Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library, Boston, MA; British Library, Wetherby, W Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ United Kingdom; University of Oxford; London Borough of Hackney, London, National Childrens Coll, New Zealand, Wellington, 6011 New Zealand.
Sister Kenny. Henry Thomas. London: A. & C. Black. 1958. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft Worth, TX; Edinburgh Univ Library, Edinburgh, EH8 9LJ; British Library, Wetherby, W Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ; Univ of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd,; University of Oxford; Bromley Libraries, Bromley, Kent; National Library Of New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand.
References from Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005.:
Rogers, Naomi, “Sister Kenny Goes to Washington: Polio, Populism, and Medical Politics in Postwar America,” in Robert Johnston, The Politics of Healing, 2004, 102–3. Denton, Margaret, “Further Comments on the Elizabeth Kenny Controversy,” Australian Historical Studies, 2000, 157. Knapp, Miland E., M.D., “The Contribution of Sister Elizabeth Kenny to the Treatment of Poliomyelitis,” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, August 1955, 510–17. “Verdict on Sister Kenny,” Newsweek, June 26, 1944. “A Doctor Comments on ‘Sister Kenny,” Life, September 16, 1946, 21.
References from the book, Patenting The Sun by Jane S. Smith Morrow. New York, 1990:
H.A.T. Fairbank et al., “Report on the Kenny Method of Treatment,” British Medical Journal, 22 Oct. 1938. Wallace H. Cole & Miland E. Knapp, “The Kenny Treatment of Infantile Paralysis: A Preliminary Report,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 7 June 1941, Vol. 116, pp. 2577–80. Miland E. Knapp, “The Kenny Treatment for Infantile Paralysis”, Archives of Physical Therapy, Nov. 1942. Miland E. Knapp, “The Contribution of Sister Elizabeth Kenny to the Treatment of Poliomyelitis,” Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Aug. 1955. Marvin L. Kline, “The Most Unforgettable Character I’ve Met,” Reader’s Digest, Aug. 1959 [Sister Kenny] Basil O’Connor, “The Story of the Kenny Method,” Archives of Physical Therapy, April 1944, Vol. XXV. Ralph K. Ghormley et al., “Evaluation of the Kenny Treatment of Infantile Paralysis,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 17 June 1944, Vol. 125. J.E. Hulett Jr., “The Kenny Healing Cult: Preliminary Analysis of Leadership and Patterns of Interaction,” American Sociological Review, June 1945, Vol. 10. Victor Cohn, Sister Kenny: The Woman Who Challenged the Doctors (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1975).
Key word suggestions for additional publication searches: Kenny method, infantile paralysis, poliomyelitis, physical rehabilitation, physical therapy, Sister Kenny Institute, Sister Kenny Foundation, Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Associates, New Jersey Medical Center; “Ruth Home” in El Monte, California; Australia, Minneapolis.