Nursing’s History

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I’ve always been interested in the history of nursing. I have a small collection of nursing memorabilia including some old text books and photos. I even have a nurse’s cape, which used to be part of a nurse’s uniform, to be worn when outdoors. I was bummed when I found out nurses were no longer using them when I started nursing school in the early 1970s!

We have such a rich history and I have always felt proud to be part of that legacy.

And yet, it seems that many nurses never developed that connection to our past, that sense of legacy. As an example, when I deliver my keynote address Nurse Power!® I include a quick history lesson. I present a brief bio of Mary Breckinridge, Susie Walking Bear Yellow Tail, Clara Louise Maass, and Luther Christman. 3 of these outstanding colleagues started professional nursing associations, one won a presidential award for outstanding nursing healthcare, one has had not 1 but 2 commemorative stamps issued in her honor, and all have made great contributions to nursing, to healthcare, and to the world. And yet most nurses in my audiences are hearing these stories for the first time which I always find amazing.

It’s important to study our history, honor it, be proud of it, promote it, and look for ways to pass it on . To help you get started, visit the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame page at I guarantee you’ll be inspired, energized, and amazed. Connect with your profession on a whole new level.

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