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The 10 most influential female nurses of all time

10. Claire Bertschinger


Claire Bertschinger worked for the International Red Cross during the highly-publicized 1984 famine in Ethiopia. She regularly was seen on television and helped to inspire Bob Geldof to create the Band-Aid charity single. While in Ethiopia, she ran a number of children’s feeding centers, although she was never able to feed everyone.

Along with Ethiopia, she also worked in Panama, Lebanon and Papua New Guinea. Her experiences motivated her to write a book on her work, entitled Moving Mountains. Bertschinger has received the Florence Nightingale Medal, the Woman of the Year Award and the Human Rights in Nursing Award.

1. Florence Nightingale
2. Margaret Sanger
3. Clara Barton
4. Mary Eliza Mahoney
5. Anna Caroline Maxwell
6. Dorothea Lynde Dix
7. Ellen Dougherty
8. Mabel Keaton Staupers
9. Linda Richards
10. Claire Bertschinger

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11 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. Adele

    Nice to see Ellen Dougherty’s photograph on your site, wonderful lady, I have all her history, and on January 10th, 2010 it will mark the 109th anniversary of her becoming No.1 Registered Nurse in the World, I shall be at her graveside with a bouquet of flowers.. I have seen her medal, No.1..
    Clareville Cemetery Researcher. NZ

  3. Tammy

    This article makes me want to aspire to achieve great things.

  4. I love this post! Sometimes we need to have a quick review of history, so we know where we are heading.

  5. Linda Young

    My personal favorite is Mary Breckinridge-inspiring and courageous!

  6. M Wallace

    Yes, Margaret Sanger was influential,but not for the better.She was a Eugenist and opened the door to a sexual revolution and Planned Parenthood’s slaughter of unborn children.
    “Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.”
    — Margaret Sanger. Woman, Morality, and Birth Control . New York: New
    York Publishing Company, 1922. Page 12.
    “There is only one reply to a request for a higher birthrate among the
    intelligent, and that is to ask the government to first take the burden of
    the insane and feeble-minded from your back. [Mandatory] sterilization for
    these is the answer.”
    — Margaret Sanger, October 1926 Birth Control Review .
    “[Slavs, Latin, and Hebrew immigrants are] human weeds … a
    deadweight of human waste … [Blacks, soldiers, and Jews are a] menace to
    the race.”
    “Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need … We must prevent
    Multiplication of this bad stock.”
    — Margaret Sanger, April 1933 Birth Control Review .
    “[Our objective is] unlimited sexual gratification without the burden
    of unwanted children … [Women must have the right] to live … to love
    … to be lazy … to be an unmarried mother … to create … to destroy
    … The marriage bed is the most degenerative influence in the social order
    … The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members
    is to kill it.”
    — Margaret Sanger (editor). The Woman Rebel , Volume I, Number 1.
    Reprinted in Woman and the New Race . New York: Brentanos Publishers,

  7. susan jane smith

    What inspeational ladies working to promote nursing and not giving up inspire us all to succeed

  8. sarah

    You may not agree with Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, but if it weren’t for her, you may not have the right to take your birth control pill and limit the size of your family. I salute all the great women in our nursing past.

  9. Rebecca

    Many do not realize that Margaret Sanger’s passion for reproductive health stemmed from a desire to limit the family sizes of those she believed to be genetically less desirable (minorities.). She was an unabashed eugenist with ideologies similar to Hitler’s. I believe that the technology and pharmacology for family planning would have naturally occurred as a demand by our increasingly technical and industrialized society.

  10. ……you forgot Lillian Wald who founded The Henry Street Visiting Nurses in N.Y. without whom there wouldn’t have been a Public Health Nursing service!

  11. Maggie, RN, CCRN, BSN

    The one biggest thing that ALL of these nurses have in common is that they were willing to PERSONALLY ‘buck the system’ in order to change the status-quo.
    Something that many of us who stand up for doing the right thing are bullied and persecuted for today.
    It is EASY to ‘go with the flow’, but HARD to ‘walk the walk AND talk the talk’.