Nursing Leaders

What You should Know about History of Nursing Leaders

In this article, you will read about history of Nursing leaders From Nightingale’s time to the present day, nurses have used observation, compassion, presence, and empathy to provide and coordinate care.

Nursing has a rich history that dates back to Florence Nightingale’s time. During this period, nursing was viewed as a profession centered on observation, compassion, presence, and empathy. These qualities have remained essential to the practice of nursing throughout the years, as nurses continue to provide and coordinate care for patients. However, the profession of nursing has also faced various challenges and changes influenced by historical, social, political, and subjective factors.

History of Nursing Leaders


NIGHTINGALE (1820–1910) The contributions of Florence Nightingale to nursing are well documented. Her achievements in improving the standards for the care of war casualties in Crimea earned her the title “Lady with the Lamp.” Her efforts to reform hospitals and produce and implement public health policies also made her an accomplished political nurse, and she was the first nurse to exert political pressure on the government. Through her contributions to nursing education, perhaps her greatest achievement, she is also recognized as nursing’s first scientist-theorist for her work Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not (1860/1969).

Nightingale was born into a wealthy and intellectual family. She believed she was “called by God to help others and to improve the well-being of mankind” She was determined to become a nurse in spite of opposition from her family and the restrictive societal codes for affluent young English women. As a well-travelled young woman, she visited Kaiserswerth in 1847, where she received three months of training in nursing in 1853.

She studied in Paris with the Sisters of Charity, after which she returned to England to assume the position of superintendent of a charity hospital for ill governesses. When she returned to England from Crimea, a grateful English public gave Nightingale an honorarium of £4,500. She later used this money to develop the Nightingale Training School for Nurses, which was opened in 1860.

This school served as a model for other training schools. Its graduates traveled to other countries to manage hospitals and institute nurse-training programs. Despite poor health that left her an invalid, Florence Nightingale worked tirelessly until her death at age 90. As a passionate statistician, she has conducted extensive research and analysis (Florence Nightingale International Foundation, 2014).

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Nightingale is often referred to as the first nurse researcher. For example, her record-keeping proved that her interventions dramatically reduced mortality rates among soldiers during the Crimean War. Nightingale’s vision of nursing has changed society’s view of nursing. She believed in personalized and holistic client care. Her vision also included public health and health promotion roles for nurses. It is easy to see how Florence Nightingale still serves as a model for nurses today.


BARTON (1821–1912) Clara Barton volunteered as a nurse during the American Civil War. Her responsibility was to organize nursing services. Barton is noted for her role in establishing the American Red Cross, which is linked to the International Red Cross when the U.S. Congress ratified the Treaty of Geneva (Geneva Convention).

Barton persuaded Congress in 1882 to ratify this treaty so that the Red Cross could perform humanitarian efforts in times of peace.

LINDA RICHARDS (1841–1930)

Linda Richards was America’s first trained nurse. She graduated from the New England Hospital for Women and Children in 1873. Richards is known for introducing nurses’ notes and doctors’ orders.

She also initiated the practice of nurses wearing uniforms (ANA 2013b). She is credited for her pioneering work in psychiatric and industrial nursing.

MARY MAHONEY (1845–1926)

Mary Mahoney was the first African American professional nurse. She graduated from the New England
Hospital for Women and Children, respectively, in 1879. She constantly worked toward the acceptance of African
Americans in nursing and the promotion of equal opportunities (Donahue, 2011). 144).

The ANA (2013c) provides a Mary Mahoney Award biennially in recognition of significant contributions to interracial relationships.

LILLIAN WALD (1867–1940)

Lillian Wald (Figure 1–13 •) is considered the founder of public health nursing. Wald and Mary Brewster were the first to offer trained nursing services to the poor in the New York slums. Their homes among the poor on the upper floor of a tenement, called the Henry Street Settlement and Visiting Nurse Service, provided nursing and social services, and organized educational and cultural activities. Soon after the founding of the Henry Street Settlement, school nursing was established as an adjunct to visiting nursing

LAVINIA L. DOCK (1858–1956)

Lavinia L. Dock was a feminist, prolific writer, political activist, suffragette, and friend of Wald. Sha Participated in protest movements for women’s rights that resulted in the 1920 passage of the 1

9th American to the U.S.. Constitution that granted women the right to vote. In addition, Doccampaigned for legislation to allow nurses, rather than physicians, to control their profession.

In 1893 Dock, with the assistance of Mary Adelaide Nutting and Isabel Hampton Robb, founded the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses in the United States, a precursor to the current National League for Nursing.

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Margaret Higgins Sanger a public health nurse in New York, has had a lasting impact on women’s healthcare. Imprisoned for opening the first birth control information clinic in America, she was considered the founder of Planned Parenthood.

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