Margaret M Allemang Centre for the History of Nursing
Bulletin Description Bulletin Archives Membership
Description Bulletin Archives Membership





Margaret M. Allemang Centre for Nursing History

Editor: Natalie Riegler, RN, PhD. 3 Dromore Crescent, Willowdale, Ontario, M2R 2H4.
TEL: 416-221-5632 E-MAIL:


BOOK REVIEW: By Natalie Riegler

Christopher Maggs, ed. NURSING HISTORY: THE STATE OF THE ART. London: Croom Helm, 1987.

I always await books on nursing history with eager anticipation. So it was a pleasure to read Maggs' recent publication. He and his colleagues are to be commended for providing us with topics, research and arguments which we can add to, dispute and recommend for others to read.

Maggs introduces his book as a sequel to Celia Davies' Rewriting Nursing History (1981) and sets out three objectives. The printing of this book affirms the first, to answer questions and challenges raised by Davies; his selection of articles validates the second, to demonstrate that new history is being written; and confirms the third, that historians of nursing are developing "diverse approaches" and raising new questions about the "orthodox history of nursing."

The reading of Davies' book is not necessary to appreciate Maggs' intent. It suffices to know that Davies' aim was "to open up a debate, [and] to bring others into the process of rewriting nursing history." And Maggs provides us with these others, nine authors from Australia, England and the United States.

In his "Introduction" he argues that "there is more to nursing history" and that it does not belong to a sub-species such as labour history because nursing arose in the 19th century throughout industrialized nations as a result of economic, political and social expansion. However, I find that these essays are linked by two labour oriented themes: the professionalization of nursing and the loss and maintenance of autonomy by nurses in both hospital and community nursing. Thereby re-enforcing the idea that it is a sub-species of history in work and occupations if not directly in the history of labour.

Though all the entries are of value, five especially provide new insight into nursing history. Firstly, Monica Bayly, having access to previously unused Nightingale archival material, shows that Florence Nightingale's relationship with the Nightingale Fund and St. Thomas's Hospital was different from that which we have been led to believe. Secondly, Alice Friedman brings to light details about Hanna Porn, a highly competent and legally approved Massachusetts midwife at the turn of the century, who lost her freedom to practice in a gender/profession battle between male medical doctors and herself. In her article on asylum nursing, Olga Church makes evident the dominance of the medical profession in developing and controlling this specialty in order to advance asylum medicine. Ruth Hawker shows that nursing research can be stimulated merely by a simple phrase in an 18th century letter, "for the good of the patient." Finally, Maggs's research on the effect of hospital economics (profit and loss) on the employment conditions (wages) of the hospital nurse alerts us to the importance of looking at the finances of the hospital as part of the economic context within which the pupil-nurses and graduates worked.

The remaining five essays, though they did not capture my interest to the same extent, are nonetheless worthwhile. After placing Australian nursing within labour history and looking at the education, work process, wages and unionization of nurses since the 1930s, Josephine Castle concludes that the nurses in the 1980s are worse off in work benefits and are readier for industrial militancy. Both the articles by Sidney Krampitz, are about two notable American events: the Rockefeller Foundation-supported Yale Experiment (which was an outcome of the Committee for the Study of Public Health Nursing Education) and The Committee on the Grading of Nursing Schools (which was formed as a result of the failure of the Committee for the Study of Nursing Education to make an impact on elevating nursing education standards). Laura Linebach, in her chronological history of the Greater Kansas City Visiting Nurse Association, suggests that the nursing model, though of contemporary debate, was constructed, evaluated, extended and practised by VNA nurses since 1889. Finally, Cynthia Wood, writing in a sociological style contends that nurses must be considered within the context of societal structure. It is social forces, she argues, which have prevented nurses from achieving autonomy, higher education, control of standards and better wages. This, she concludes, has prevented the profession of nursing from moving beyond an ideology based on attributes, such as, education and responsibility, to one based on power.

As well as being given thought-provoking content by the authors, the reader should be rewarded with enjoyable presentations and the researcher should be provided with retrievable data. Unfortunately some of the articles are boring to read because of their writing style: lack of variation in sentence structure, one to two sentence paragraphs and the repetition of words or phrases which detract from the message; others are shrouded in obfuscating language or truncated statements in which ideas are so compressed that they limit an understanding of what is being said. Additional editing would have eliminated many of these irritants.

Since we do research in a world oriented to information retrieval by computer precise key words are needed. The titles in this book should include more specific information. For example, Krampitz's article "Nursing Power, Nursing Politics" could be "The Committee on the Grading of Nursing Schools, 1927: Nursing Power, Nursing Politics"; or Ruth Hawker's, "For the Good of the Patient?" might be "For the Good of the Patient?: Social Control at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, 1871.

Of lesser importance than content and style are the few typographical errors which can be corrected in the next edition. I could not locate two footnotes in the text: #12 on page 70 was not be found on pages 61-62; nor was #7 on page 86 to be seen on page 76. The date in footnote #14 on page 152 possibly should be 1892 rather than 1982. Lastly, footnote #28 on page 159 is repeated twice in the text and probably the second reference should be #29.

I am left with two observations on nursing history and the state of the art. Maggs' choice of authors from England, Australia and the United States demonstrates that there is an international interest and need for historians of nursing to communicate their findings and interpretations. And, since all the essays are united by the themes of professionalization and autonomy he re-affirms that we are still talking in terms of concepts popular in the 1970s and that there is really little hope by the reader for new directions in nursing history until we exorcise this approach from our system. I hope that nursing history in the 1990s will move forward from being studies about professionalization and power. As much as these two concepts are important for interpreting nursing history there must be others of similar or greater value.


1. Canadian Medical Live Series

(Courtesy of Lynn Kirkwood)

Lynn brought to my attention that the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine in partnership with Dundurn Press has introduced, under the editorship of Thomas P. Morley, M.D., an ongoing series of biographies of men and women who have shaped Canadian medicine. The term medicine in this context is being used as a generic term and not specifically for medical doctors. The first three volumes will be on Duncan Graham (Toronto General Hospital/University of Toronto), William Mustard (Hospital for Sick Children) and Joe Doupe (Manitoba).

Future books will include a history of Marguerite Carr-Harris, a Public Health Nurse in Ontario and other Canadian nurses.

If you wish further information contact either

Robert A. Macbeth, M.D., Executive Director, or

Thomas P. Morley, M.D., F.R.C.S.C., Series Editor, The Canadian Lives, at

Associate Medical Services, Inc.,

Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine,

Ste. 101,

14 Prince Arthur Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1A9.


2. Image

Donna Diers, editor of Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, has written to me that she is "trying to build up the amount of historical material" the journal carries. Image, as you know, is the official journal of Sigma Theta Tau (the International Honor Society of Nursing). Manuscripts are peer reviewed. If you are interested write,

Donna Diers, R.N., M.S.N.,

Editor, Image,

Yale School of Nursing,

855 Howard Avenue,

P.O. Box 9740,

New Haven, Ct. 06536-0740, USA,



Abeele, Cynthia Comacchio. "`The Mothers of the Land Must Suffer': Child and Maternal Welfare in Rural and Outpost Ontario, 1918-1940." Ontario History LXXX (September 1988): 183-205.

Baer, Ellen D. "Nursing's Divided Loyalties: An Historical Case Study." Nursing Research 38 (May/June 1989): 166-171.

Bendekovic, John, and Karen Judson. "Birth, Death and Everything In Between: Public Health Nursing in Columbus, Ohio 1922-1989." Caring 8 (March 1989): 42-47. [Journal of the National Association for Home Care, USA].

Coutney, Patricia. "Jessie Young--A Tribute." Axon (Journal of the Canadian Association of Neuroscience Nurses) 10 (June 1989): 97.

Flaumenhaft, Eugene, and Carol Flaumenhaft. "American Nursing's First Textbooks." Nursing Outlook 37 (July/August 1989): 185-188.

Gagan, David. "For `Patients of Moderate Means': The Transformation of Ontario's Public General Hospitals, 1880-1950." Canadian Historical Review LXX (June 1989): 151-179.

Helmstadter, Carol. "Some Nineteenth Century Perspectives on Four Current Issues in Nursing." Axon (Journal of the Canadian Association of Neuroscience Nurses) 10 (June 1989): 103-106.



Colliere, Marie-Francoise, and Evelyne Diebolt, eds. Pour Une Histoire des Soins et des Professions Soignantes. Cahier Numero 10. Lyon, France: AMIEC Publications, 1988.

Heilbrun, Carolyn G. Writing a Woman's Life. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1988.

Juchereau de Saint-Ignace, Jeanne-Francoise, Marie-Andree Regnard Duplessis de Sainte-Helene.Les Annales de l'Hotel-Dieu de Quebec 1636-1716. Edited by Dom Albert Jamet de l'Abbaye de Solesmes. Quebec: l'Hotel-Dieu de Quebec, 1939; reprint, 1984.

McGee, Arlee, and Mary Myles. The Victoria Public Hospital Fredericton 1888-1976: Victoria Training School for Nurses. Fredericton, New Brunswick: Arlee McGee, 1984. [Brought to my attention by Arlee McGee.-ed.]

Morley, T. P., ed. Canadian Medical Lives. Vol. 1, Duncan Graham: Medical Reformer and Educator, by Robert B. Kerr and Douglas Waugh. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1989. [Brought to my attention by Lynn Kirkwood.-ed.]

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Clara Barton: Professional Angel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

Quinn, Dame Sheila. ICN: Past and Present. Middlesex, England: Scutari Press, 1989. [Brought to my attention by Hanneke van Maanen.-ed.]



Ontario Association of Registered Nursing Assistants

2000 Weston Road, Suite #207,

Weston, Ontario, M9N 1X3. Telephone: 416/247-7133.

London, England. The Florence Nightingale Museum. Location: 2 Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7EW, beside St. Thomas's Hospital. Telephone: 01-620-0374.



Haines, Judith. "Association for Nursing History Meets." Canadian Nurse 85 (August 1989): 16.

Jackson, Maggie. "London Museum Celebrates Mother of Modern Nursing." The Toronto Star, 12 August 1989, G12. [Florence Nightingale.-ed.]



Kerr, Janet C. Ross. "Early Nursing in New England and New France."

Kirkwood, Lynn. "Different but Equal: The Dilemma of Nursing Educators in Establishing University Nursing Education in Canada between 1920 and 1960."

Both papers were presented on September 24, 1989 at the American Association for the History of Nursing, Sixth Annual Fall Conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland.



Meryn Stuart, moderated a concurrent session on September 24, 1989 at the American Association for the History of Nursing, Sixth Annual Fall Conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland.



Healey, Phyllis Foster. "St. Catharines' Training School and Nurses' Home in Connection with the General and Marine Hospital: The First Fifteen Years."

Paper presented at the American Association for the History of Nursing, Sixth Annual Fall Conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland.


INTERNATIONAL NURSING HISTORY: International Council of Nurses, at the meeting in Seoul, Korea, held a Special Interest Session on Nursing History on June 1, 1989. Alice Baumgart (Ont.), Beverly DuGas (BC) and Helen Niskala (BC) attended the session. Anyone interested should contact either,

Dr. Shirley Fondiller, 605 West 112th Street, #5, New York, NY 10025, or

Dr. Christopher Maggs, English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, Victory House, 100 Tottenham Court Road, London, England.

[This information courtesy of Lynn Kirkwood.-ed.]



Four papers sponsored by the American Public Health Nursing Section will be given in a session entitled "Historical Perspectives in Public Health Nursing Practice" at the American Public Health Association, 117th Annual meeting, Chicago, October 22-26, 1989. For more details see the American Journal of Public Health 79 (August 1989): P-48.



Boulter, Winifred. "Parachute Nurses." Magazine Digest 19 (July 1939): 33-35.



Smith, Donald B. "Lost Youth: Above all They were Adventurous Eager to take up the Challenge." University of Toronto Magazine 17 (Autumn 1989): 19-21.

Photograph of a "Ward in a Casualty Clearing Station" World War I showing a nursing sister standing beside a dressing table (p.21). Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada.



Because of the truth of the premise that future practice, no matter how radical, will be influenced by a study of the past and of the present, this book is written. For it is held without fear of contradiction, that the world as a whole has suffered of late from lack of an adequate understanding of the root causes, and subsequent development of human thought and behaviour, and of the modes of expression through the centuries. Had this not been so, some of the tragedy of our times might have been averted. [Florence H. M. Emory, Public Health Nursing in Canada (Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada Ltd., 1945), xvi-xvii].




© 2000, The Margaret M Allemang Centre for the History of Nursing