In Praise of Nurses

It’s National Nurses Week here in the United States, and I am scrambling to catch up.*

In the years since Heroines of Mercy Street was published, I’ve spent a lot of time  thinking, reading, writing and talking about nurses.*  As a result, I’ve also spent a lot of time talking to nurses–and their friends, mothers, daughters, granddaughters and nieces. (And occasionally fathers, sons, grandsons and nephews.) The experience has confirmed my long-held opinion that nurses rock.

In honor of the nurses I know, and the nurses you know, and the nurses who told me they loved Heroines of Mercy Street, here are links to some of my favorite posts about nurses in history:

Florence Nightingale Does the Math

Amy Morris Bradley: Civil War Shin-Kicker

Cornelia Hancock: Civil War Nurse, Reformer, Muse

What Did Civil War Nurses Do After the War?

“Our Army Nurses”

Edith Cavell: “Patriotism is Not Enough”

Nurses in the Vietnam War:  A Guest Post by Lynn Kanter


The nature of my work in recent years mean that these posts focus on nurses in war time, but the truth is that nurses are in the trenches every day. Take the time to say thank you to the nurses in your life for a hard job well done.

*National Nurses’ Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

**Like so many subjects, one thing leads to another. Civil War nurses led me inexorably to the formation of the first American nursing schools, nurses in the First World War, nurses in the Second World War, and, less obviously to an old favorite of mine, Mary Roberts Rinehart ‘s Miss Pinkerton novels. (I own a collection of several stories subtitled Adventures of a Nurse Detective.)Published prior to World War I, the stories give a vivid picture of what it was like to work as a nurse in the early years of the 20th century. To my surprise, it turns out that Rinehart graduated from nursing school in 1893, one of the first 500 trained nurses in the country. But I digress.






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