Tag: Nursing

African Americans, Slavery, and Nursing in the US South

In 2016, a statue of Jamaican-born nurse and businesswoman Mary Seacole was erected outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Seacole’s contribution to the war effort in the Crimea and to British life is well-known. Yet, the tribute – the first statue of a named Black woman in the UK – gathered vocal opposition from The… Read more →

Black Before Florence: Black Nurses, Enslaved Labor, and the British Royal Navy, 1790–1820

Throughout the eighteenth century, the British Royal Navy embarked on a scheme of hospital construction in the Atlantic World. The largest hospitals were in the British Isles, but those that dealt with the highest mortality were in the Greater Caribbean. Most naval medical history focuses on male medical officers, while most nursing history examines the… Read more →

Nursing Justice: Filipino Immigrant Nurse Activism in the United States

When you think about trailblazing women in American nursing history, do Filipino nurses come to mind? Probably not. But they should. The pioneering cancer prevention work of Ines Cayaban in the 1940s, the organizing work of Esther Hipol Simpson to defend two immigrant nurses wrongfully accused of murder in the 1970s, and the current leadership… Read more →

Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail and Histories of Native American Nursing

I first encountered Susie Yellowtail (Crow) in a July 1934 letter in which a physician on her reservation condemned her for making “selfish” requests on health workers’ time and resources.1 The physician was angry that Yellowtail refused to accept hospital services for the birth of her child, and he made it clear that the Crow… Read more →

The Racist Lady with the Lamp

Nursing historiography is centered on whiteness. Even worse, nursing history revolves largely around a single white nurse: Florence Nightingale. This, unfortunately, doesn’t mean nurses understand who Nightingale was. There are nurse historians doing incredible and diverse work, but in general, nursing, both as a profession and as an academic discipline, promotes a view of Nightingale… Read more →

Ruth Taylor Ballard: A Nursing Pioneer In the Jim Crow South

In 1954, the public school system of Mobile, Alabama, launched its first training program for black nursing students. It was a one-year Licensed Practical Nurse Program (LPN). Before then, an African American who wanted to study nursing had to travel to places like Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee. Few had the means or the ability to… Read more →

“Self-Sacrificing Service”: The Life and Death of a Red Cross Nurse in Wartime France

Mary Curry Desha Breckinridge, known as “Curry,” was one of the first American nurses to go to Europe during World War I. Her service overseas — and her untimely death — demonstrate the difficulties and dangers of wartime nursing, even as Curry exemplified popular prescriptions for women’s self-sacrificing service to others. Background Born in Lexington,… Read more →

Mary Seacole: Disease and Care of the Wounded, from Jamaica to the Crimea

While Florence Nightingale is legendary in the history of nursing because of her foundational role in the creation of Western healthcare systems, she was not the only important woman in this history. It is perhaps unsurprising that the white, English-born, Nightingale’s contribution to modern nursing eclipses that of her contemporary, Mary Seacole, a mixed-race Jamaican… Read more →

“Bought some souvenirs as usual and a cheese:” Nurses’ Lives Outside the Hospital in the First World War

A great deal has been written about soldiers’ experiences behind the lines during the First World War and the relationships they forged in the course of their service. From visiting brothels to performing in amateur theatricals, interpersonal and romantic relationships had lasting effects on men after their service had ended.1 Janet S.K. Watson has noted… Read more →

The How and Why of Indigenous Nurse History

How do you write a history of Indigenous nurses? Several stories coincide: stories about education, about colonialism in health care, about Indigenous women and work, and about racism in the nursing profession, for example. But one starting point is the founding of the Registered Nurses of Canadian Indian Ancestry (RNCIA) in the mid-1970s, an important… Read more →