Sunday, December 30, 2012

Madeleine Leininger - "A Great Woman with a Great Story"

A Great Woman … A Great Story

By Jerry Johnson and the Sutton Historical Society

“A Great Woman … A Great Story” is an appropriate and fitting tribute to perhaps Sutton’s most famous daughter and is presented in a three and a half minute video on youtube at: - a tribute to Dr. Madeleine Leininger.

Dr. Madeleine Leininger of Sutton

Dr. Leininger has been recognized locally a number of times in articles and tributes but the story of her career does not grow old.

“He made a difference in the world.” Have you ever heard that said about an individual? Did that person really make a difference? In the world?

We’d all like to think that we made some difference during our brief stay on the planet and on certain scales, we all do. But not many of us truly do something that alters the world for untold thousands and thousands of people. We have at least one Suttonite who did just that.

The Sutton High class of ’42 was a large class for our town, fifty-eight graduates in the early months of a world war. The boys faced an immediate responsibility to “make a difference” on the stages of the Pacific Theater and the European Theater of WWII. One grad made the ultimate sacrifice in a tank battle on the western front near the borders between Germany, France and Switzerland.

Many scattered across the country making their marks from coast to coast. One fellow went on to become an executive at Temple University. Others stayed close to their roots becoming standout citizens of our local community. But the ‘42 grad of this story did truly make an indelible mark on the world.

Madeleine Leininger was born July 13, 1925 to George and Irene Leininger on the farm south of Sutton though the video mentioned above gives her birth as 1920. After graduation from Sutton High she was in the U. S. Army Nursing Corps while pursuing a basic nursing program. She received her nursing diploma from St. Anthony’s School of Nursing in Denver, a B. S. from St.Scholastica (Benedictine College) in Atchinson, Kansas, her M. S. psychiatric and mental health nursing from Catholic University in D. C. and a Ph.D. in cultural and social anthropology from the University of Washington. She was the first person in a graduate nursing program to receive a Ph.D. – quite a distinction. Her official certifications read: PhD, LHD, DS, CTN, RN, FAAN, FRCNA – I’ll not elaborate.

Dr. Leininger’s broad academic background led her to blend her two fields study, nursing and anthropology to create a new discipline, transcultural nursing.

She was working in a child guidance home in the 1950’s when she realized that behavior patterns in children appeared to have a cultural basis. She spent three years in Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea on a field research project with the Gatsup people. There she came to realize that nurses and other health care personnel were handicapped in their attempts to provide health care if they did not understand the culture and history of health care of their patients.
Dr. Leininger visited and studied more than a dozen cultures world-wide.

Madeleine studied a number of diverse societies while formulating her then-radical ideas about the nature of nursing. Those ideas coalesced into her Theory of Transcultural Nursing defining an entirely new professional sector of nursing and health care practice.

Dr. Leininger was able to instill her ideas into formal educational programs as she attained leadership positions in the field at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Colorado and as Dean, Professor of Nursing and Lecturer of Anthropology at the University of Washington. It was under her leadership that the University of Washington was recognized in 1973 as the outstanding public institution of nursing in the country. Her resume must have been suitable for framing.

Her academic career continued at the University of Utah where her collection of titles included Director of the Doctoral and Transcultural Nursing Program.

The theory and principles of transcultural nursing were quickly ingrained into nurses training throughout the world as the list of her professional writings grew to include over 200 articles and book chapters, more than 25 of her own books and edited works, 850 public lectures and numerous audio and video presentations. She managed to work in stints as visiting professor and scholar at about 70 universities around the world – her various biographies seem unable to keep up with and agree on the “gee-whiz” statistics of Dr. Leininger’s career.
Dr. Leininger with a group of Gadsup children on a return trip
to Papua New Guinea probably in 1990.

She settled down, as best she could in 1981 at Wayne State University in Detroit where she accumulated another list of academic and professional titles. She retired as professor emeritus from Wayne State University in 1995.

Every formal field of study needs its definitive publication for exchange of ideas and to establish standards and methods. Dr. Leininger accommodated with the founding of the Journal of Transcultural Nursing in 1989 and served as its editor until 1995. The publication recognized their Foundress shortly after her death by reprinting (unfortunately, as a single paragraph!) an article from 2009:

The Madeleine Leininger Collection constitutes 15.5 linear feet of her papers in the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State. The thirty-three pages of the “Finding Aid” of the collection are at: and is worth your time to get a feel for the important work of this Sutton girl. Prepare to be overwhelmed. Other collections of her works are at Florida Atlantic University, Boston University and Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan.

I’ve provided a few of the dozens of internet links concerning Dr. Leininger. I’m pretty sure no other Suttonite generated as much academic and professional material. But I must include two more of those links. A detailed and lengthy account of her work is at: and an entertaining youtube video at:
is rather clever, if a bit hokey with a skit apparently done by enthusiastic nursing students including an appearance by Madeleine as Mary Poppins. Yes, really.

Did growing up in Sutton have any unique or direct influences that may have led to Dr. Leininger’s success? We probably shouldn’t make such a claim without specific justification. But there is a hint in the 1940 census of where an important influence may have come from. Madeleine was 14 at the time of that census. Her sister Eulalia was 17 and listed as a “public school teacher.” School documents for that fall list Eulalia as a second-year teacher in District #38, the Rock School six a half miles south of Sutton.

We can imagine how a sister but three years older and already teaching school might have had an impact on Madeleine. Leininger family stories confirm Eulalia’s influence including her encouragement and help in sending Madeleine off to begin her education and the career that became “A Great Story about A Great Woman”.

Dr. Madeleine Leininger died on August 10, 2012 and is buried in Sutton’s Calvary Cemetery.

This article first appeared in the November 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For information about this publication see   or contact or write to Mustang, Inc., 510 West Cedar, Sutton, NE 68979  or call 402-984-4203.

They Left; Where Did They Go? What Did They Do?

Following the stories of Sutton folks out in the world.

By Jerry Johnson and the Sutton Historical Society

The Sutton High Alumni Directory tells us that our classmates and friends and those of our parents and grandparents have dispersed all over the country and beyond. Ever wonder what they are doing, what those in the past did? Their stories are part of the history of the Sutton community too.

State and town promotions include the famous people who were born, or had a connection to the state or town. Nebraskans take pride in claiming Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, David Jansen, Sandy Dennis, Gordon MacRae and others from the entertainment world. A favorite Omaha trivia question is, “Who gave 18-year old Henry Fonda his acting start at the Omaha Community Playhouse?” The answer of course is Marlon Brando’s mother. Towns create a tourist industry based on the birthplace of a president or movie star or other celebrity. Those connections become part of the local history and heritage.

The cover of a collection of political cartoons from the 1930's
by Herbert Johnson of Sutton

We’ve had recent reminders of our own similar heritage here in Sutton. Madeleine Leininger’s Sutton funeral reminded us of her incredible career as a pioneer in the nursing profession. This 1942 Sutton High graduate created the discipline of transcultural nursing. The archive of her papers (1961-1995) at Wayne State University measures 15.5 linear feet; her name at generates 116 results of her books, collections and related works. She had an influence in the world and as her hometown, Sutton and those of us in Sutton can be proud of her.

The opening production in the newly refurbished Allegro Wolf Arts Center was a performance of the play “The Guys” which in its eleven-year history has become the signature work of the arts to commemorate the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster. After performances of the play, the playwright, Anne Nelson told us of visits as a girl to her grandparents in Sutton. She convinced us that even as a New Yorker who was raised in Stillwater, Oklahoma she feels a special affection for Sutton, Nebraska. Those of us in Sutton can take pride in that connection.

The poster for the movie version of Anne Nelson's play
"The Guys" about a NYFD captain and a journalist one
afternoon in September, 2001. Anne's parents are Sutton
natives and graduates of Sutton High School.
In the earliest days of the Sutton Historical Society we began to collect the stories of past residents of Sutton and others who had some connection with our community.  Some were well-known but many had been forgotten; either their stories had never been told or had faded to obscure references on yellowing newsprint in the news office basement.

We enjoy the story of Walter Wellman, one-time 14-year old Sutton newspaper publisher who became obsessed with hot air balloons and tried to become the first man to the North Pole via his balloon. (See the historical society blog at )

Herbert Johnson was a political cartoonist and drew cover cartoons for the Saturday Evening Post and other publications. Again, see the blog.

Ummo Luebbens, the son of a Sutton banker invented the round baler.

1964 Sutton grad Diane Klein as Diane Jordan, moved to Nashville and began a recording career that is best described by the title of an interview a few years ago: “Almost Famous.” She appeared in a couple of movies including “That’s Country” where she shared billing with quite a lineup of country stars:  

Paula Felps (Burklund), class of ’81 enriched the Open House at the Sutton Museum a few years ago with a book signing featuring a few of her works. An internet search today reveals her current work as a writer, editor and among other things, car critic for ladies. Not ordinary cars either. Check out for a photo of her in a $480,000 Mercedes McLaren. Anyone else here ever driven that car?

We’ve revived a few sports stories. Johnny Bender was a star halfback at the University of Nebraska for five pre-NCAA years before coaching and naming sports teams such as the St. Louis Billikens, K-State Wildcats and Houston Cougars. His story is at our blog.

A few years ago I fielded a call from the NFL Historian (yes, he said it was a real job) who was working on a web site listing the 1,000 oldest living pro football players: He had traced the Oregon State star and late 1930’s pro Morris Kohler to Sutton, Nebraska and asked if I knew when he had died. I stammered a bit then said, “I could give you his phone number.” I called the Kohler home to warn them before calling the historian back. We soon learned that Morrie was #14 on that list of 1,000 old pros. We were able to revive Morrie Kohler’s football story here in Sutton while he could still enjoy the recognition, again.

Incidentally, two Nebraska-connected fellows were ahead of Morrie on that list: Tippy Dye, the genius who hired Bob Devaney in 1962 and Bill Glasford, NU coach 1949-1955 who still holds down third position on the list of 1,000 at age 98.

Soldiers have brought distinction to our town. We’ve written about the two Medal of Honor winners, Jacob Volz and Orion Howe a number of times – again, see the historical society blog. About a dozen Sutton area men perished in World War II including Marine Merritt Walton who received the Navy Cross entitling his family to see a Navy ship named after him. The destroyer U. S. S. Walton thus is likely the only warship with such a Sutton connection. Nebraska’s southwest Asian war fatalities including Sutton’s own Sgt. 1st Class Tarango-Griess are recognized at the Fallen Heroes Marsh southwest of town.
The Navy Destroyer USS Walton (DE-361) named for Marine Sgt. Merritt
Walton killed August 7, 1942 on Gavutu Island in the Solomon Islands.
Sutton newspapers identified Walton as the first Sutton man to be lost
in World War II.

Ted Wenzlaff from the class of 1921 had a distinguished military career but he also made a great contribution to the understanding of the history of the Germans from Russia. His nephew Jim Griess continues to extend that work.

There are lesser, but still interesting connections between our community and history in general. One hundred years ago Wisconsin Senator Robert “Fighting Bob” LaFollette visited Sutton during his brief run at the Republican nomination for president. Fighting Bob made his connection with Sutton by reminding them that his brother had once lived in Sutton.

Others from Sutton have made contributions to the business world, the arts, education – the list goes on and on. Knowing where our “ex-pats” went and what they’ve done is interesting and worth knowing. Taking pride in someone else’s accomplishments is a sincere way to honor that work.

Members of the Sutton Historical Society consider it part of our mission to collect and preserve these stories that are a part of the community’s history and making them available to be enjoyed by all.

Do you have any nominees who belong on this list? If so, let us know. Better yet, join us in our efforts to build the list. The historical society meets the first Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM, generally at the Historic House at 309 N. Way Ave. And we have a pancake breakfast at the American Legion the first Saturday of each month from 7:30 – 10:30. Stop in for breakfast, coffee or “just visiting.”  Call 773-0222 for information.

This article first appeared in the October, 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. Contact Mustang, Inc. for more information:  or  510 West Cedar, Sutton, NE 68979 or 402-984-4203.

Interpreting Our History from Stuff & Memories

Our historical society strives to tell the story of the history of our community through several channels.

We have artifacts on display at the museum which one generation remembers, another generation has heard of but are completely new to yet another generation.

The rural school house on North Way Avenue tells its story to anyone with even a hint of an imagination. Visitors standing in the school house can picture what it must have been like to attend such a school sitting alone on a country road in the middle of winter, a small group of kids with one adult often not much older than the oldest students.

We have a growing inventory of old photos from the early days of the town that together tell a story of wooden frame store fronts beside muddy streets with telephone and power poles and lines. We have photos of families and individuals, some identified, many not.

Each of these resources, artifacts, old buildings and photos provide a piece of the story of our town’s past. It is up to us to assemble those pieces to solve the puzzle of what our town was like seventy-five years ago or one hundred years ago or at its very beginning over 140 years back.

Central Block in downtown Sutton, South end, West side, in 1908. This photo appeared in Don Russell's "Sutton Nebraska - 125 Years - A Pictorial History" among other places. Russell attributed the photo to Roger Bauer and Artis Lemkau.
Those puzzle pieces can be used to build a variety of images and impressions of what life must have been like for the early residents of Sutton. Join me in imagining my great-grandmother Anna Klintberg visiting downtown Sutton stores with two or three of her six children in tow as she crossed the dusty or muddy streets shopping for clothes for the kids or more likely material to sew, basic grocery items – coffee, sugar, produce and other things not grown at home or maybe something for herself. Now add a piece of information from the 1900 and 1910 censuses where we learn that Anna never learned English well enough to tell the census taker she spoke the language. Did she shop in Sutton just two miles from her farm home or did she prefer to go to Saronville further away but where her friends and relatives spoke Swedish and definitely where she attended church services conducted in her native tongue as long as she lived?

See how a very few pieces of the puzzle of Anna’s life come together to give us insights into her life.

Old newspapers have become my favorite resource for deciphering the puzzle of life in Sutton’s early days. These old newspapers were written to report the happenings of the day to an audience of contemporary readers who shared the context of living at the time. Articles were written with the valid assumption that readers already knew the background and context of the story and those things did not have to be repeated in the story. So as we read those stories today we can be sure that we are missing things. You can probably see the same characteristic in articles in this week’s newspaper if you imagine yourself 100 years from now reading an old yellowed paper (or in another medium) and recognize that you wouldn’t catch important assumptions.

Our old Sutton newspapers, the Sutton Register and the Sutton News, are great resources for looking into Sutton’s past. The history of the comings and goings of businesses is documented well but generally identify the locations with the name of a building, a name that no longer is used – context again. As we continue studying these old newspapers, the more we begin to build our own version of the necessary context to make better sense of each article.

A persuasive impression from these early newspapers is that early Sutton residents led an intensive social life. Local clubs, lodges and organizations had reporters who filled many column-inches of newsprint each week telling about their respective organizations, and there were a lot of them.

Each church seems to have had organizations for men and women and a few for children. Ladies Aid and church circles played a big social role. The Masons, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, Knights of Columbus, AOUW (Ancient Order of United Workmen) and other lodges operated in early Sutton, some lasting into recent times. The Masonic Temple building that hosts City Hall was built just fifty years ago.

The Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) had an active post in Sutton with at least 40 members into the twentieth century. The American Legion and the Auxiliary has a long history in town and continues today.

There were clubs for specific activities such as the Bicycle Club, Walking Club, numerous card clubs, Sutton Junior Stamp Club and the Sutton Girls Stamp Club. (Wally and Fritz Bender were stampers.)

My father remembered his days in DeMolay and regretted that that organization had folded before I came along.

Clubs were known by their initials. The O. E. S. had a chapter in Sutton, No. 54 as well as the P. E. O. Sisterhood, the J. U. T. and S. O. S. The W. C. T. U. (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) fought their battle against Demon Rum in Sutton, throughout the county, state and nation.

The DAR (Butler-Johnson Chapter) was active in Sutton. There was a Fortnightly Club, Women’s Home Missionary Society, Red Cross, Farmers Union and something called W. H. M. S.
I once ran across an article about the forming of the Clay County Dentists Association. Belonging to a club was a popular thing to do, be it a professional club, social, special interest or whatever. And as you’d expect, people joined multiple clubs.
The Sutton Bicycle Club in 1894. This photo was attributed to C. V. Hines in the book, "Sutton Nebraska - 125 Years - A Pictorial History" published by Don Russell and the Clay County News in 1977.

My nominee for the champion Sutton Clubber is Mayme (Weiden) Clark whose name appears in articles about many clubs. She was not only a member but was often an officer, the reporter or just had her name pop up a lot.

O. K., so there were lots of clubs in Sutton over the years. What can we infer from that piece of information?

It’s clear that Sutton folks from the early days of the 1880’s into the ‘30’s were social creatures. These clubs and organizations were a form of entertainment in the pre-TV days. But there was probably more to it than that. We can’t help but imagine that members of these clubs developed a large network of very close friends. They were very willing and eager to spend a significant amount of time engaged in a particular activity with the same circle of friends month in and month out.

Does knowing such information help you to understand more about the people in our past? Of course it does.

Does the process of analyzing these tidbits of information to arrive at such a conclusion sound interesting? I think it does.

This article first appeared in the September, 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For information about this small-town publication contact contact or write to Mustang, Inc., 510 West Cedar, Sutton, NE 68979 - 402984-4203.