Images from 100 Years of American Nursing: Celebrating a Century of Caring.


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These photographs-most of which were first published in the American Journal of Nursing and subsequently in the book 100 Years of American Nursing (Lippincott, 1999)-illustrate the great and small occasions of a century of nursing in this country.


As compilers Thelma Schorr and Maureen Shawn Kennedy said in the forward to their book: "The pictures illustrate the story of nurses who have struggled throughout the century to improve their education, to enrich their caring practices.... We hope that it will spark historical interest in many."



FIGURE 1 Students provided most of the patient care in hospitals; only a few graduate nurses were hired for supervisory roles. Most graduates used registries to find jobs in private duty nursing-several of these organizations would only recommend graduates they deemed "morally sound."

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Pictured: The first head nurses at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, circa 1900.



FIGURE 2 Although many black nurses volunteered at the beginning of World War I, it was not until 1918, after the armistice was signed, that they were accepted into the Army Nurse Corps.

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Pictured: Nurses at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio, 1918.



The influence of the Great Depression on health care was immeasurable. Though sorely needed by a suffering nation, nurses couldn't find work. "There is not sufficient work for nurses who have always lived here," wrote one Alabama nurse to AJN in 1934. "Frankly ... we would like to have them [other nurses] remain away."


Pictured: Baby care classes for boys. (Courtesy of the American Red Cross)



FIGURE 3 In 1945, heavy casualties in World War II spurred President Franklin D. Roosevelt to call for a draft of nurses during his State of the Union address. While his Nurses Selective Service Act moved through Congress, many answered his call and enlisted. Nine months later, as the war was coming to a close, 31.1% of active professional nurses had served with the Armed Forces.

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Pictured: U.S. Army nurses arriving at the Normandy beachhead.



FIGURE 4 "DO allow children to play with friends they have been with right along. Keep them away from new people," warns a 1951 brochure from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. With the threat of polio, everyday occurrences ignited fear. In 1954, 1,730,000 children participated in the trials of Jonas Salk's vaccine, which was declared safe and 90% effective in 1955.

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Pictured: Patients with respiratory paralysis were immobilized in Drinker respirators and required constant nursing care.



FIGURE 5 Nurses took action in the tumultuous 1960s. In May 1966, almost half of the nurses in New York City's municipal hospitals were prepared to resign over poor working conditions and low salaries. Lengthy negotiations resulted in an agreement that prevented resignations.

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Pictured: Protester, circa 1966.



FIGURE 6 "Handmaidens of the world, arise!" was one AJN reader's impassioned plea to her fellow nurses, championing their right to independent practice. As politics ripped through society in the 1970s, the nurse practitioner movement created new battlegrounds in health care-stirring excitement in some and anger in others.

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Pictured: A nurse practitioner examining a patient.



FIGURE 7 In 1983, one year after AIDS was identified, 3,000 Americans were reported to have the disease, and many lived in fear of casual transmission (some San Francisco bus drivers reportedly wore masks on their routes). By the end of the decade, it was estimated that 200,000 people were infected.

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Pictured: Assisting a patient with AIDS.



FIGURE 8 Throughout the 20th century, nursing has influenced every major social movement. Today, nursing has transformed itself from its "handmaiden" origins to an independent profession. Yet despite the advances and the setbacks, the essence of nursing has not changed.

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Pictured: An ICU nurse conducts a respiratory assessment.