1. Smeltzer, Carolyn Hope EdD, RN, FAAN
  2. Vlasses, Frances R. PhD, RN
  3. Robinson, Connie R. MSN, RN

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The Chicago Nurses Day Parade, recently documented in the book Chicago's Nurse Parade, has both historical and contemporary implications.


After World War II, the United States was experiencing a severe nursing shortage, much like today. The parade was created in 1949 in an effort to inspire others to become nurses. At its zenith, the event drew up to 100,000 spectators. The last parade, in 1958, had 4,000 marching nurses, as well as more than 100 floats and 30 bands.


For a decade the parade honored nurses, highlighted their work, and called attention to the need for more nurses. The parade was initiated by Father Clarence M. Brissette, director of the Sorrowful Mother Novena, who collaborated with Chicago officials, merchants, hospitals, and nursing schools to make nursing visible. He helped to alleviate the nursing shortage by organizing the parade and encouraging Illinois governor Stevenson and Chicago mayors Kennelly and Daley to proclaim the first - and the following nine-official annual Nurses Days. Illinois was the first state to do so.


Heralded as "the world's largest, shortest parade," this six-block parade along Jackson Avenue acknowledged the contributions of health care workers. The parade was followed by a service at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica-where nurses' vows were renewed in a candlelight ceremony.

FIGURE. St. Annes Ho... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. St. Anne's Hospital School of Nursing students march in the Chicago Nurses Day Parade of 1949. One of their floats had to be trimmed down when it wouldn't fit under a viaduct before getting to the parade route.
FIGURE. Many floats ... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. Many floats were as impressive as those seen in larger parades along Chicago's famous Magnificent Mile.
FIGURE. The crowds o... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. The crowds on the parade route along Jackson Avenue were thick as nurses marched or rode on floats.
FIGURE. Cabrini Scho... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. Cabrini School of Nursing students line up for the parade.