This topic can never be mentioned to often, as far as I am concerned. Here is an interesting article:
Nurses Week Preview - Pioneers In Nursing
The history of nursing is full of strong women and men who have fought for the betterment of their patients and their profession. Indeed, without some of these pioneers, nursing would not be considered a profession at all.
Perhaps the best known of these pioneers is Florence Nightingale. Born May 12, 1820 to a well-to-do English family, she, to her family's dismay, spurned several "suitable" offers of marriage to pursue her career. She studied nursing in Germany, and, at thirty-four volunteered to go to the Crimea to address the needs of wounded British soldiers. When she encountered opposition to her proposed reforms, which included decent food and sanitation, she used contacts in the press to expose the dismal conditions in which the soldiers were living. To analyze and document her data, Florence invented the "polar-area diagram", similar to a pie chart.
Florence was also a strong advocate of women's rights, including the right to participate in the workplace. She knew the challenges women would face, as evidenced by this strong quote:
'I have no peculiar gifts. And I can honestly assure any young lady, if she will but try to walk, she will soon be able to run the "appointed course". But then she must first learn to walk, and so when she runs she must run with patience. (Most people don't even try to walk.) But I would also say to all young ladies who are called to any particular vocation, qualify yourself for it as a man does for his work. Don't think you can undertake it otherwise.'
Nurses' Week is always includes May 12, Ms. Nightingale's birthday. But, as she also suffered from a disease similar to chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia, the International CMS/FMS Awareness Day is likewise May 12.
Lillian Wald was born March 10, 1867, also to a well-to-do family. She became interested in nursing when her sister was ill and attended by a private duty nurse. She enrolled in the New York Hospital Training School for Nurses, received her basic training, and went on to graduate studies. One of her assignments was to design a community-based plan of care for poor New York City immigrant families. From this assignment sprung her life's work.
Lillian moved to the Lower East Side to live among her clients, founding the Henry Street Settlement. She established an atmosphere of trust, and her clientele and staff grew. She pioneered public health and school nursing, and was the first to convince insurance companies to pay for nursing visits to their policy holders.
What Lillian Wald did for the urban underserved, Mary Breckinridge (b. 1881) did for the rural poor. After the deaths of her husband and two children, Mary devoted herself to the care of disadvantaged women and children. She established the Frontier Nursing Service, and pioneered the introduction of nurse-midwifery services to the area. Mary kept careful records that demonstrated a reduction in mortality rates after the introduction of her services.
Here are some great pictures of the Frontier Nurses. Mary has also been honored on a postage stamp.
Other Noted and Unsung Heroes & Heroines
For more great nursing history, check out these fascinating links:
American Association for the History of Nursing
Gravesites of Prominent Nurses
Includes photos and a brief history of each nurse
American Nurses Association Hall of Fame
The Army Nurse Corps in the Korean War
Interview with a Vietnam Nurse
Happy Nurses Week!