Nurse dolls show how the profession has evolved

  1. Nurse dolls show how the profession has evolved
    Monday, May 17, 2004
    By ROGER GREEN
    Booth Arts Writer
    ANN ARBOR -- Until the 1970s, nurses could be identified by their bright, white uniforms and neat, tight caps. Today, such emblematic apparel is out of vogue -- look around any hospital corridor. But if gone, traditional nurses' uniforms have not been forgotten. They're the subject, together with related historic issues, of a lively exhibit at the University of Michigan Health System's Taubman Center.

    "The History of Nursing as Portrayed by Dolls" brings together 100 dolls from the collection of Linda Strodtman, clinical nurse specialist in the UM Health System and assistant professor at UM's School of Nursing. Continuing through June 16, the exhibit is sponsored by the Health System's Gifts of Art, an enrichment program bringing art and music to patients, visitors and staff

    Strodtman's personal theory is that nurses' uniforms evolved from Victorian nannies' indicative dress, which typically included a white, full-body apron. One aproned nanny doll appears in the exhibit, visually sustaining the connection.

    Other dolls, variously attired, attest to other historic links, often mirroring societal change in striking ways. The dolls are of bisque, stuffed cloth, plastic and composition (sawdust and plaster). From 1900 comes the oldest nurse doll, dressed in a dark-blue uniform and white apron, supporting a Red Cross insignia. A more recent doll, dressed in Army fatigues, references the Desert Storm conflict.

    Many of the dolls, though of recent vintage, portray historical figures. One is Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the English nurse/reformist who established trained nursing as profession for women. A bisque Nightingale doll, created by the Florence Nightingale Museum and the United States Historical Society, is an accurate portrait, Stodtman said. The pre-uniform doll wears a voluminous beige gown with lace trim. She's carrying the storied, folding lamp she brought on nighttime rounds of the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, Turkey, during the Crimean War.

    More interesting and revealing are nurse dolls surviving from and reflecting recent historical periods. From the 1950s comes a collection of "Miss Curity" nurse dolls, used in nationwide advertising campaigns for Curity first-aid products. According to Strodtman, images of nurses were used to promote many kinds of products during the prosperous, post World War II years.

    Some later dolls, from the 1960s and '70s, reference those decades' breakdown of traditional obstacles and categories. African-American nurse dolls from the period include "Julia," portraying Diahann Carroll's nurse character from the popular television series, and "Wanda," flaunting convention by sporting bell bottoms.

    Nurse Whitney, who later evolved into svelte Nurse Barbie, also appears, along with Doctor Ken. Strodtman says that a Doctor Barbie doll now is available, but that other realities impacting the medical profession have yet to affect popular playthings.

    No Asian- or Hispanic-American nurse dolls can be seen in stores today. Nor can any male nurse dolls, despite men's considerable presence in the nursing profession. So although dolls can reflect their time, some catching up seems in order. Strodtman hopes that will happen soon.




    IF YOU GO: The nurse doll exhibit is in the long, level-one corridor of the Taubman Center, to the left of the main entrance to the University of Michigan Health Systems, 1500 East Medical Center Dr. Viewing is daily, 24 hours. For more information call Gifts of Art at (734) 936-ARTS.

    http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/s...7640396290.xml
    •  
  2. 6 Comments

  3. by   pickledpepperRN
    I hope to be able to see the exhibit!

    Country Joe McDonald has photos of his doll collection here:
    http://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/dolls.htm
    Somewhere along the way, about ten years ago, I approached the owner of Berkeley's biggest toy store about nurse dolls. It occured to me that if we wanted a generation of good nurses we would have to introduce the idea early on with toys about nursing. I was thinking of making a Florence Nightingale doll myself. The owner of the store told me that she was told by the feminists in the 70s to get the nurse stuff out and bring in women doctor stuff. I found this very odd considering Miss Nightingale warned against women acting like men if they became doctors. What the world needed was more professional women nurses. Now we are beginning to see male nurse dolls.
  4. by   takeapaws
    I sure wish I could see it too especially since that is where I attended nursing school. I will just miss it.

    I too have a very extensive of nurse figures. I wish I could show everyone the pictures. I have collected them for 20 years and always enjoy finding new ones.



    Quote from spacenurse
    I hope to be able to see the exhibit!






    Country Joe McDonald has photos of his doll collection here:
    http://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/dolls.htm
    Somewhere along the way, about ten years ago, I approached the owner of Berkeley's biggest toy store about nurse dolls. It occured to me that if we wanted a generation of good nurses we would have to introduce the idea early on with toys about nursing. I was thinking of making a Florence Nightingale doll myself. The owner of the store told me that she was told by the feminists in the 70s to get the nurse stuff out and bring in women doctor stuff. I found this very odd considering Miss Nightingale warned against women acting like men if they became doctors. What the world needed was more professional women nurses. Now we are beginning to see male nurse dolls.
  5. by   psychomachia
    Quote from nursebedlam
    Nor can any male nurse dolls, despite men's considerable presence in the nursing profession.
    Could they make a male nurse doll with a "Kung-Fu" grip?
  6. by   takeapaws
    there are some male nurse figures made. I know of at least one by vanmark. Some show up on ebay all the time, but I doubt any have a kung fu grip.
  7. by   oramar
    [QUOTE=spacenurse]I hope to be able to see the exhibit!

    "The owner of the store told me that she was told by the feminists in the 70s to get the nurse stuff out and bring in women doctor stuff." There is an article in Revolution magazine about something totally unrelated to dolls. In it Susan Gorden mentions that in the 60s and 70s the "women's lib movement made war on nursing". I often have thought the same thing and wondered at it because if you want to elevated the status of a minority you have to go where they are to do it. The distain that the nursing profession was treated to in those years did nothing to help the position of women in general and contributed directly to the poor wages and benefits nursing continues to suffer. But I must get off my soap box and talk about dolls. There was an article in out Post-Gazette about the GI Joe nurse doll from the 1960s. It is rare because it was not well recieved at the time and now it is very valuable.
  8. by   Tawa
    Hello,

    I am very new. I am not a nurse but I work with a university graduate nursing school program. I originally came across this site looking for information about nurse dolls. I was thinking about collecting a few to use as an interesting collection for my school office.

    Does anyone have any ideas where to find interesting nuse ddolls (other than on Ebay)?

    Thanks in advance!

close