5 Badass Female Nurses from History You Should Know (But Probably Don’t)


Willingly or not, most of the time people associate the medical world with doctors rather than with nurses. That is a fairly wrong view since nurses are responsible for running a hospital smoothly perhaps even more than doctors.
History itself hasn’t been too fair to nurses either – there is not much credit given to them in the past century. One of the reasons for that is that nurses used to come from the lower class, and nursing was not one of the most appreciated careers.

However, things began changing for the best in the 19th century, when because of the terrible World Wars, their work became more valuable and noticeable.

With approximately 2,600,000 nurses today, they are very powerful figures who dedicated their lives to healing others. And from their lines, some of them have taken that extra step to helping mankind.

Since March is Women’s History Month, here’s is a list of the pioneers of the nursing world.

Anne Caroline Maxwell

Born on March 14, 1851, she began working as a matron at first in 1874, at the New England Hospital. However, fate had other plans for her and thus, she moved to the United States and began to attend the Boston City Hospital Training School for Nurses.

She was quickly hired after graduation at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Training School for Nurses in Boston as a superintendent. As you can imagine, her career was on a roll, and consequently, in 1889, she became director of nursing at a hospital in New York – the Presbyterian Hospital.

Also, three years later, the hospital funded a nursing school at which she became the director until 1921.

You might ask yourself what exactly is it that Maxwell did during this period that made her so important. Well, she was indispensable during the Spanish-American War, when she trained 160 nurses that managed to help 1,000 soldiers in Georgia. Also, she made sure that the conditions in the field hospital were improved significantly.

Even more spectacular, given the work that these nurses invested, she had pushed for nurses to be offered military rank. As a result of her efforts, The Army Nurse Corps was set in 1901.

Her immense talent was also put to use in the World War I, receiving a Medal of Honor for Public Health from the French government. She kept educating nurses until 1924. Her service for the world ended in 1929 when she was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery – also the first woman here, as well.

Virginia Lynch

During her times, there was a common practice in which nurses were responsible for identifying, collecting and preserving evidence from the crime victims that were brought to the hospital. Something clicked in Virginia’s mind, and she decided that there was a need for a more disciplined field in which nurses are an important part of the legal field and police investigation.

Consequently, she envisioned several types of nurses that would be part of this discipline: the emergency room nurse, the sexual assault nurse, the psychiatric nurse, the death investigator and the legal consultant nurse.

She had also created a Master’s degree program focused on forensic nursing.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale’s parents weren’t very supportive of her wish to follow a nursing career at first, but they allowed her to follow that path eventually. And they did took a wise decision.

She took three months of nurse training in Germany and upon her arrival in London she took the position of a gentlewoman in a hospital.

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) on engraving from 1873. Celebrated English social reformer, statistician and  founder of modern nursing. Engraved by unknown artist and published in ''Portrait Gallery of Eminent Men and Women with Biographies'', USA, 1873.

Celebrated English social reformer, statistician and nurse, Florence Nightingale depicted on engraving from 1873.

She began training nurses when the Crimean War began and after the war was ended, she built the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in a hospital from London. She has also elaborated all sorts of theories in 1860 that became extremely influential. In fact, some of the practice hospitals use today, were established by her.

Dorthea Dix

Dix’s career also had an interesting course. She was superintendent of the Union Army Nurses but left the position because of disagreements with the doctors.

Although her work meant a lot in the war times, her brilliance showed in the mental health field. She petitioned the Congress and is now known as the first person who created a mental health system in the United States.

Sharon Ann Lane

Following the lead of her fellow nurses, she had served in Vietnam as a First Lieutenant. Unfortunately, she passed away because of enemy fire. However, she is known as one of the most powerful symbols of sacrifice regarding the women that served in those times of war.

As you might guess, the list of pioneer nurses does not end here. What other important nursing figures do you know? Share your thoughts with us in comments below.


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