Skip To Main Content

Holderness News

Women’s History Month: Celebrating Doris Plaisted RN 1959-1984 Holderness School
Dr. Jennifer Martinez

From Dr. Jennifer Martinez, History and Capstone Faculty, Archivist and Special Projects Associate

In honor of Women's History Month, we celebrate the women who impacted Holderness School and its community. Women have been integral to the institution's workings since its founding as the Holderness School for Boys in 1879. Wives of rectors, faculty wives, nurses, and ultimately female students and faculty members have been essential to the school's history, often making history themselves. 

Our tribute begins with a remarkable woman whose name may have faded from our collective memory but whose impact on the students' well-being remains indelible: Doris Plaisted, R.N. School Nurse 1959 - 1984. 

From its inception, Holderness School has placed a premium on student wellness. The school's idyllic location in the White Mountains was a key selling point, as it promised a 'healthful and happy home for boys, with thorough instruction and loving care' (The Living Church 1893, 1). This 'loving care' was embodied by the dedicated nurses who have been a constant presence at Holderness, a testament to the historical significance of nursing as a profession open to women since 1873. 

Doris Plaisted R.N., or "Nursie," as she was known by some, joined the school in 1959 and retired in 1984. She arrived at Holderness after graduating from the Mary Fletcher School of Nursing in Burlington, Vermont. She then went on to work for both the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth, N.H. Mrs. Plaisted arrived at Holderness with a "strong New York accent and few unique sayings."

She worked alongside Dr. Henry Crane at the infirmary, which was located in upper Livermore Hall. Bill Clough, a graduate of the class of 1957 and a founding leader of the Out Back program, worked at the school during Doris's tenure. Clough remembers their dynamic and how "they liked to joust each other all the time."

Plaisted's tough exterior was overshadowed by her genuine and attentive care for the boys she looked after. She was said to have "ran the infirmary with an iron fist and a heart of gold." Doris' care extended beyond the physical well-being of the students. Through her character, she taught important life lessons to those who came in close contact with her. Jon Norton '70 remembers her well. Having suffered an injury, he spent weeks recuperating in the infirmary and got a behind-the-scenes look at Plaisted's character and discipline. Mr. Norton remembers that:

"My time in the infirmary taught me a valuable lesson: not to judge anyone until you truly know them. Mrs. Plaisted provided me with the best possible care imaginable, and I even gained a few pounds due to her attentive and nurturing care. I also had the privilege of observing her interactions with Dr. Crane, which showcased the exceptional relationship they shared and how they both dedicated themselves to serving the students of Holderness. Mrs. Doris Plaisted's impact went beyond her role as a nurse. She taught me the importance of compassion, understanding, and not jumping to conclusions. Her genuine care and dedication to the well-being of students will always be remembered and appreciated."

Chris Latham '72 arrived in Holderness as a one-year postgraduate student and remembers being Plaisted as a "Nursie." Just like Jon Norton, he also recalled that the external perception of her was very different from her real character in private. Latham recollects that "the reality was that she just didn't suffer fools easily. If you were trying to find a way out of class or some other obligations but were not genuinely sick, she would not play a part in your ploy. As a result, she sometimes came across as very short and uncaring. However, if you were really ill or suffering in any way, you could not have had a more concerned or caring champion!" A devastating injury unfortunately ended Latham's football career in his first game of the season. Similar to Norton, he was confined for weeks to the infirmary, where he witnessed Doris Plaisted in her daily routine.

Latham concluded his thoughts on Plaisted by saying he could not have asked for "a more sincere and caring individual" to oversee his recovery. Even after graduating, they remained in contact and became good friends. Ultimately, "Nursie was someone I knew I could always turn to in times of need, a great comfort for a young boy who was far from home for the first time in his life. Doris was as sincere and genuine a person you could ever know and be blessed to call your friend."

Doris Plaisted retired in 1984 and continued to live in Campton. Shortly after that, however, a tragic car accident took her life and that of a friend who was in the car with her. "She was a great lady who, in the end, died taking care of another," fondly remembers Ki Clough, wife of Bill Clough.


More Latest News

School House in the Fall
Subscribe For Updates

Never Miss A Holdyminute