It might surprise you that the modern nursing care that we expect from professionals is only 150 years old in the USA. Long ago, people preferred to stay at home and take care of their injuries and illness as they viewed formal health care with suspicion.
10 of the top famous nurses in history include
10. Claire Bertschinger
She is a dual citizen of Switzerland and the UK who used her legal status to bring nursing services to war torn regions in the world. In 1984 she worked in Ethiopia’s famine stricken region where she used to pick dozen of children from thousands to enter a center to eat, which horrified her; how does she discriminate and yet all the children needed food? This led her to hold an interview on BBC to enlighten the world on what was happening in Ethiopia. This interview caught the attention of Bob Geldof, a singer and songwriter, who organized concerts that raised a lot of money to help in fighting the famine.
9. Mother Teresa
She was born in the Ottoman Empire as Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, she was committed to care for the most depressed and downtrodden people of India. She organized a group of nuns to provide healthcare for the slums of Calcutta, where she cared for the lepers, who at the time were untouchable. Though she worked under the Catholic church, she provided non-denominational services with nuns reading from the Quran for suffering Muslims and delivering water from Sacred Ganges for Hindus who were dying. Currently over 133 nations are receiving care from over 4500 nuns of her organization.
8. Mary Breckinridge
While serving as a nurse in the American Expeditionary Force in WWI she met European midwives and she learned the trade of how they were meeting the needs of women’s reproductive health and thought that she could use the same to meet the needs of the American women who lived in remote inaccessible areas like the Appalachians. She went back to the USA and used a horse to access the inaccessible areas. That led to other nurses joining her and they eventually formed what is now referred to as the Kentucky Frontier Nursing Service
7. Margaret Sanger
Her mother got pregnant 18 times and she attributed her death to these pregnancies. This was a time when Comstock Law declared that any information on reproductive health was obscene, but she defied all that and held public lecturers, published magazines and circulars just to educate the woman. She even went to the extent of smuggling diaphragms into the country to be used by women and provided care to women whose abortion went wrong. She was arrested in 1916 but an appeal court ruled that women reproductive health was important and should be legally taught and distributed by trained professionals. Margaret founded an organization which is currently known as Planned Parenthood.
6. Lillian Wald
She founded the first organization of Public Health Nurses in Manhattan’s Lower East Side which provided subsidized health services to the destitute, immigrants and anyone who could not afford healthcare. This she started after was called in to save the life of an immigrant whom doctors had treated badly and abandoned for being unable to pay him. This happened in 1893. Her original organization, the Henry Street Settlement continues to help the immigrants to this day.
5. Mary Elizabeth Mahoney
This was an iron woman who couldn’t take no for an answer. She worked for 15 years at the New England Hospital for Women and Children before she was allowed to join a nursing school. After graduation in 1905, she began her career as a respected private care nurse and her recognition opened doors to other black women to receive formal training. She was head of the Howard Orphan Asylum and joined the American Nurses Association. She was the first black woman to register as a voter in Boston in 1920.
4. Dorothea Dix
She hated the way people with mental illness were treated. She resigned from teaching and became a student of mental healthcare at a time when people with mental illness were locked in basements. She started surveys in States on how mad people were being handled and delivered her reports to the state legislatures. In 1845, New Jersey became the first State to invest in an institution for human housing and treatment for the mentally ill thus Dorothea Dix efforts bore fruits during her lifetime.
3. Mary Jane Seacole
This Jamaican born Creole was a contemporary of Florence Nightingale. She learned nursing as an apprentice where she utilized modern medicine with traditional African. She practiced medicine throughout the world and engaged herself in scientific enquiry to learn more. She used her own funds to travel to the Crimean War where she established a recovery home for the British officers. She opened doors to non-white nurses in the Empire.
2. Florence Nightingale
She traveled to the Crimean with a group of women volunteers to provide care for the wounded British officers. The conditions on the field were horrific which led her to lobby for the first modern field hospitals where she emphasized regulations on the sanitary conditions and care thus reducing soldier’s fatalities from 40% to 2%. When the war ended, she founded the first formal nursing school for women, which is currently part of King’s College of London.
1. Clara Barton
She took nursing when she was only 10 years when her brother required frequent care. During the Civil War, she took to the front line and worked in the traditionally male dominated field of nursing, being on the front line. After the war, she was selected to create the first branch of the Red Cross in the United States.
Indeed this are great nurses and they deserve recognition for the work they did in history to save lives in their own different ways.