Online Exhibits@Yale

Madeline Stanton, secretary and historical librarian

Madeline Earle Stanton's 1927 passport

Madeline Earle Stanton

Madeline Earle Stanton (1898-1980) began working for Dr. Cushing as a secretary in 1920, while he was employed at Harvard Medical School and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. A native of Canton, Massachusetts, Stanton was a cum laude graduate of Smith College. Before entering Dr. Cushing's service, she had worked as a secretary to Agide Jacchia, the conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Madeline Stanton's job as a secretary was often taxing, but working with Dr. Cushing also provided her with exciting opportunities. Shown here is Stanton's first passport, issued in 1927, when Stanton accompanied Dr. Cushing to Britain and mainland Europe. On this trip, Stanton helped Dr. Cushing complete his unfinished speeches and acted as a travel companion for his daughter Betsey.

Madeline Stanton, ca. 1932

Photograph by Richard U. Light, courtesy of the Harvard Medical School Archives at the Countway Library of Medicine

"Behind the starchy New England veneer..."

Historian Michael Bliss writes: "To the outside world, Miss Stanton was the unremarkable woman at the desk of Cushing’s outer office, another plain-looking, plain-dressing, thin-faced, and slightly exophthalmic secretary of indeterminate age… and rather forbidding formality. In fact, behind the starchy New England veneer was a painfully shy and self-conscious young woman with a superior mind, a superior education, considerable literary ability, a dry sense of humor, and an immense, almost desperate yearning for companionship."

Madeline Stanton at her desk in the Yale Physiology Department

The move to New Haven

After Dr. Cushing retired from Harvard and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston in 1932, he accepted an appointment at Yale as the Sterling Professor of Neurology. Stanton accompanied Dr. Cushing to New Haven in 1933, where she continued to work as his secretary. 

Cushing and his books

Cushing and his books

When he relocated to New Haven, Cushing brought with him his personal papers, which he and Stanton spent many hours organizing during their years at Yale. He also brought his massive collection of rare books relating to the history of anatomy and surgery. These books are the foundation of the historical collection in the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library.

The Yale Medical Library

Harvey Cushing died of a heart attack in 1939, just a few days after he received word that Yale would begin work on a new medical library. Madeline Stanton played a major role in organizing the historical collections of the new library, which included Dr. Cushing's rare books along with the collections of his friends, Dr. John F. Fulton and Dr. Arnold C. Klebs. 

When the new Yale Medical Library opened in 1941, Stanton was appointed Secretary of the Medical Historical Library. In 1949, her title changed to Librarian of the Historical Collections, a position she held until her retirement in 1968. Shown here are the invitation to the Opening of the Yale Medical Library, several pages from the program for the new library's Dedication Ceremony, and a 1941 photograph of the library.

Madeline Stanton working in the Historical Library office.

"She was the Historical Library..."

Stanton died in 1980. She was remembered warmly by all who passed through the doors of the Yale Medical Library and by those with whom she corresponded from afar.

Ferenc Gyorgyey, Stanton's immediate successor as Librarian of the Historical Collections, reminisced: "Miss Stanton was the librarian of the Historical Library. It took me very little time to realize that she was the Historical Library… It was a strange symbiosis between the nerve-endings of Madeline Stanton and those of every book, pharmacy jar, objet d'art, or memorabilia."

Gloria Robinson, the wife of Yale neurosurgeon Dr. Franklin Robinson, recalled: "She was kind to students. She always knew. She indeed had a seemingly endless wealth of knowledge which she shared kindly and authoritatively, always interested, always soft-spoken, always generous. In her gentle way it was always her pleasure to help the work of others. She had endless special knowledge."


Madeline Stanton, secretary and historical librarian