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Five nurses who changed history

Florence Nightingale

‘The lady with the lamp.’

1820 – 1910

Florence Nightingale was first recognised as a mentor to those responsible for nursing wounded soldiers in the Crimean War. In 1860, Florence Nightingale became an ambassador for professional nursing and established her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was one of the first nursing schools in the world and still exists today, now part of King’s College London. In recognition of her commitment to nursing, International Nurses’ Day is celebrated on her birthday every year.

Edith Cavell

1865 – 1915

“Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

Born in Norwich, England, Edith Cavell spent her nursing life travelling to treat patients in their homes who were suffering from some of the most severe and life-threatening conditions. She later moved to Brussels to become a matron of a clinic. In November 1914, after the German occupation of Brussels, Edith Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and helping them evacuate. The German’s eventually caught Cavell, and she was sadly executed for treason at the age of 49. Her life’s work lives on and continues to support nurses across the U.K. through the fantastic work of our friends at the charity Cavell Nurses’ Trust. 

Elizabeth Grace Neill

1846 – 1926

Lobbied for the nurse’s registration act

Born in Edinburgh, Elizabeth Grace Neill spent her early life growing up in Scotland. In 1866, she moved to Queensland, New Zealand, with her husband where she started a project to provide suitable nursing services across New Zealand. Working alongside other medical professionals, Elizabeth drafted a bill for a Nurse’s Registration Act which was passed in 1901 – the first bill of it’s kind. It required nurses to have three year’s training, a state exam and state register before they could practice.  

Mabel Keaton Staupers

1890 – 1989

No matter your race, a nurse is a nurse

Born in Barbados, Mabel Keaton Staupers was an advocate for equality amongst nurses. She moved to New York, USA, with her parents when she was 13. At the age of 27, she moved to Washington and joined Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing. Appointed as the executive secretary of the National Association of Coloured Graduate Nurses, she made it her life goal to champion inclusion amongst nursing professionals, no matter their race, particularly in the U.S. military. In 1945, the U.S. Army began accepting applications from all Armed Forces Nurses, regardless of their race.

Dorothea Dix

1802 – 1887

A champion for mental health

Born in Massachusetts, USA, Dorothea didn’t start her career as a nurse. She spent her 20s as an avid author, writing books and stories for children. After experiencing major depressive episodes in her younger years, Dorothea spent her 30s championing the availability of mental health support for wider society. She spent years lobbying the various state legislature and was responsible for the first generation of mental asylums across America. She spent her later years as Superintendent of Army Nurses during the American Civil War. Although not a nurse herself, Dorothea is recognised for championing mental health support during a time when this was an unspoken subject.


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