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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Other Finding Aids

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Thelma Gibson Radden papers
    Dates: circa 1880s-2004
    Collection number: MS 206
    Creator: Radden, Thelma Gibson
    Collection Size: 8.75 linear feet (9 boxes + 2 oversized boxes)
    Repository: African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
    Oakland, CA 94612
    Abstract: The Thelma Gibson Radden papers consist of photographs, correspondence, artifacts, clothing, ephemera, and legal records documenting her life and professional career as a nurse and her family’s long history in California and Michigan.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    No access restrictions. Collection is open to the public.

    Access Restrictions

    Materials are for use in-library only, non-circulating.

    Publication Rights

    Permission to publish from the Thelma Gibson Radden Papers must be obtained from the African American Museum & Library at Oakland.

    Preferred Citation

    Thelma Gibson Radden papers, MS 206, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated to the African American Museum & Library at Oakland by Machelle Martin on August 31, 2016.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Sean Heyliger, March 31, 2017.Finding aid updated by Sean Heyliger to add Acc.# 2017-055 on November 15, 2017.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Nurse and educator Thelma Gibson Radden (1903-2004) was born on February 18, 1903 in Oakland, California to Charles Nelson Gibson and Maude Esther Gibson. She was a fourth-generation Californian with her family tracing their roots in the state to 1864, when her great-grandfather Nelson Ray moved to Placerville, California from Lexington, Missouri. Born a slave on the Verlinder Ray Plantation, he was freed following the death of his slave owner and he purchased the freedom of his wife, Lucinda Ray, and their three daughters after arriving in California and they were reunited as a family in Sacramento in 1877.
    Her father, Charles Nelson Gibson, was born in Sacramento, California in 1877 and worked for over forty years (1913-1954) as a red cap porter for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Thelma Gibson Radden was born and raised in Oakland, California where she attended Washington School and Oakland Technical High School graduating in 1924. She attended the University of California Berkeley for one year and before continuing her education at the School of Nursing at the Kansas City General Hospital No. 2, the first hospital in the United States staffed solely by African Americans and one of the few hospitals that offered degree programs for African Americans at the time. After graduation, she had a long and distinguished career as a nurse, administrator, and educator, earning a degree in Nurse Education from Wayne State University in 1950. She worked as a surgical supervisor and hospital administrator at Homer G. Philip Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri and Norfolk Community Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. For the bulk of her career, she was the assistant director of nursing services for the Detroit Chapter of the American Red Cross. As assistant director for over twenty years, she taught classes in Home Nursing, Mother and Baby Care, and Home Care for the Disabled, and in 1941 she taught the first class of African Americans in the American Red Cross’ Gray Ladies Service, a cadre of non-medical volunteers that provided assistance in blood donations and disaster response.
    In addition to her work as a nurse, she became active in advocating for the rights of senior citizens in her later years. She was one of the first volunteers for the Office of the State Long-term Care Ombudsmen, a state office that investigated complaints against abuse in long-term care facilities. She served as its Sacramento-area coordinator for two years from 1980-1982 before serving as the ombudsmen-at-large for many years. She also served as the legislative representative for the California Association, Homes and Services for Aging at the California State Capitol and provided testimony to federal officials when federal aging laws were not actively enforced in California. For her volunteer work and tireless efforts on the behalf of the elderly, she received numerous awards and honors.
    In 1942, she married Karl Radden, an electrical contractor from Detroit, Michigan, and the couple lived in Detroit until his death in 1978. The couple was active in numerous social and civic clubs including the Detroit Chapter of the Urban League, with Thelma serving as its guild president and assisted with its street academy for young adults. They also were active members in masonic organizations for many years. Thelma was also active in the Native Daughters of the Golden West and the International Toast Mistress Club serving as president for both organizations before her death at the age of 101 in 2004.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Thelma Gibson Radden papers consist of photographs, correspondence, artifacts, clothing, ephemera, and legal records documenting her life and professional career as a nurse and her family’s history in California and Michigan. The papers are organized into five series: I. Thelma Gibson Radden, II. Karl Radden, III. Gibson family, IV. Photographs, V. Assorted printed material. The Thelma Gibson Radden series is organized into six subseries: biographical material, correspondence, nursing, poetry, social organizations, and senior citizens. Included in the series are correspondence with her parents, Charles Nelson and Maude Gibson, and her husband, Karl Radden, from the 1930s and 1940s and diplomas, programs, and brochures documenting her work as nurse and educator with the American Red Cross. The Karl Radden series consists chiefly of advertisement and legal records related to his electrical contracting business and his involvement in civic organizations in Detroit, Michigan. The Gibson family series are organized by family member, and includes Charles Nelson Gibson’s railroad and mason ephemera, an aluminum record made by Maude Gibson at the Golden Gate International Exposition, and programs and guest books from the Ray-Grubbs family reunion.
    The bulk of the collection consists of 700 photographs related to Thelma Gibson’s career as a nurse and her involvement in numerous social and civic organizations. The photographs are organized into four subseries: Thelma Gibson Radden, Thelma and Karl Radden, Gibson family, and assorted. Photographs in the Thelma Gibson Radden subseries document her long career as a nurse, her involvement in the Detroit Chapter of the Urban League, Native Daughters of the Golden West, sororities, and as a resident at the Pioneer Towers senior apartments. The Thelma and Karl Radden subseries includes photographs documenting their wedding in 1942, portraits of the couple, and photographs from vacations to Greece, Canada, and cruise ships to Mexico and Norway. Also included in the series are photographs documenting Karl Radden’s electrical contractor business in Detroit, Michigan in the 1940s and 1950s. The Gibson family photographs consists of cabinet cards and portraits of Gibson family members mostly from the 1880s through the 1950s and includes photographs of Thelma Gibson Radden’s grandmother Lucinda Ray, her mother Maude Gibson, and her father Charles Nelson Gibson. Several photographs relate to Charles Nelson Gibson’s work as a red cap porter at the Oakland Southern Pacific train station and includes his 1882 class photograph of the African American school in Sacramento, California. The assorted series consists of assorted photographs collected by Thelma Gibson Radden and includes a series of photograph taken of African American troops training for World War I at Camp Lewis, Washington.
    The assorted printed material series consists of materials collected by Thelma Gibson Radden unrelated to her life and career. The series consists of several early African American programs and newsletters such as Fifth anniversary Tidewater Colored Hospital, New Day Informer , Golden State Messenger, and two Sunday school reports for a school in Detroit, Michigan in 1930. Also included are legal records related to the estate of Virginia Coker, the first African American woman admitted to the California Bar Association, and an early advertisement of Singer’s Midgets performing at the Pantages Theatre, San Francisco, California.


    Series I. Thelma Gibson Radden 1. Biographical material 2. Correspondence 3. Nursing 4. Poetry 5. Social organizations 6. Senior citizens Series II. Karl Radden 1. Biographical material 2. Radden’s Electric Co. 3. Social organizations Series III. Gibson family Series IV. Photographs Series V. Assorted printed material

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    African American families--California.
    African American freemasonry--History.
    African Americans--Michigan--Detroit--Social conditions.
    African American nurses--History--Sources.
    Red Cross and Red Crescent--United States.

    Other Finding Aids

    Gibson family papers, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library.