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The 10 most influential female nurses of all time

iStock | Anthony Baggett

Nurses impact lives every day. But once in a while, a nurse comes along who touches the lives of the world and not just her patients.

These women went above and beyond for the field of nursing. They served in wars, broke down racial barriers and campaigned for women’s rights. They have become role models for women everywhere, not just nurses. However, nurses can be especially proud to share a title with these ten ladies.

1. Florence Nightingale


“The Lady with the Lamp” is the quintessential nurse figure. She cared for the poor and distressed and became an advocate for improving medical conditions for everyone. In her early life, Nightingale mentored other nurses, known as Nightingale Probationers, who then went to on also work to create safer, healthier hospitals.

In 1894, Nightingale trained 38 volunteer nurses who served in the Crimean War. These nurses tended to the wounded soldiers and sent reports back regarding the status of the troops. Nightingale and her nurses reformed the hospital so that clean equipment was always available and reorganized patient care. Nightingale soon realized that many of the soldiers were dying because of unsanitary living conditions, and, after the war, she worked to improve living conditions.

While she was at war, the Florence Nightingale Fund for the Training of Nurses was established in her honor. After the war, Nightingale wrote Notes on Nursing and opened the Women’s Medical College with Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell.

International Nurses Day is celebrated on Nightingale’s birthday, May 12, each year.

2. Margaret Sanger


Best known as an activist for birth control and family planning, Margaret Sanger pioneered the women’s health movement. She distributed pamphlets with information on birth control and wrote on topics such as menstruation and sexuality. In 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League which eventually became Planned Parenthood. She began the Clinical Research Bureau in 1923 – the first legal birth control clinic in the US.

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4 Responses to The 10 most influential female nurses of all time

  1. sharon parsons

    what an inspiring website! I have been a nurse for 34 years Now I work as an educator for iCU nurses in Bloomington, Indiana. Nice to see the varied reponses and information posted here.

  2. Matt Polani

    Why top FEMALE nurses???
    Females are MAJORITY in nursing!!
    What about the unsung minority: male nurses???
    We had equal duties, hours, pay; but often are called on to help with or take on overweight, unstable, innapropriate acting patients, or just plain extra physical work: moving furniture/ supplies.

    • Nailil

      Well, you should forward this to Nurse Mendoza, he always advocates for the male species in the nursing field.

  3. Nailil

    Whaooo, these ladies left a legend that we should all honour.