Margaret M Allemang Centre for the History of Nursing
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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:



Hine, Darlene Clark. Black Women in White. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. 264 pp., illus.

Behind this book about black nurses and black nursing in the United States lurks a message for us in Canada. One day those of us who are interested in the history of nursing may ask: how come our subjects are always about white nurses and white nursing? What happened to the Native Canadians, Asians and Blacks who wanted to train in this country? Do we know the history of their struggle? In what ways do we differ from the USA?

There are at least two reasons why you might like to read this book. Its readable and its famous. Hine has received two honours for it: the Lavinia L. Dock award for historical scholarship from the American Association for the History of Nursing (in 1990), and a year later it was named an "Outstanding Book" by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in the United States. But more than this, it reminds us that in the United States there were nurses other than Robb, Nutting, Stewart and Dock, and that nursing took place beyond the north-eastern seaboard of that country. Hine makes visible the struggle of the black nurses for equality with their white colleagues in the profession of nursing.

The history of nursing and nurses was not Hine's first interest. She was studying physicians as part of the history of black health care professionals and considered that nurses were only worth "cursory attention." Fortunately she discovered that, unlike the medical doctors who treated specific ailments in individuals, nurses dealt with the patient "as part of a broader social system" and were "essential to the smooth operation of the entire health-care establishment." Thus, while at Purdue University where she was Vice-Provost and Associate Professor of History and more recently as the John A. Hannah Professor in History at the Michigan State University, she has focused on the history of the black nurse in the USA and has been writing on the topic since at least 1982.

Though Hine doesn't cite Ethel Johns until Chapter 5, what she includes sums up the issue very well. It is taken from Johns's report on the 1925 survey of black schools of nursing which she did for the Rockefeller Foundation. Johns wrote that `if the influence of race conflict could be eliminated from the situation, the problem of the negro nurse would not differ greatly from that of the relatively inferior type of white nurse, and a common solution might possibly be found for both.' And when Johns heard the Fisk University Choir sing `My Lord, What Shall I Do' she noted, `That one poignant phrase expresses as nothing else could the blind groping of negro nurses towards the light they feel to be denied them.' As much as Johns recognized the obstacle, I'm sure that Hine would take issue with Johns's comparison of black nurses to the inferior white nurse and consider it part of the predicament. As Hine declares, "black nurses found it impossible to change white nurses' negative opinions of their professional competence." Hine shows that there were superior black nurses.

The book is divided into two sections: the institutional infrastructure of black nursing, and the professionalization of black nursing within the context of racism. Eight chapters cover Hine's argument that to understand the "evolution of the black nursing profession in particular and nursing history in general" it is necessary to analyze white racism and the efforts of blacks to overcome it. It was racism which kept black nurses out of the organized white nurses' profession. White nursing schools in the North adopted racial quotas; white nursing schools in the South "denied admission." And in 1916, after the American Nurses Association (ANA) re-organized to accept members only through State membership, the sixteen southern states and the District of Columbia denied State membership to black nurses. This excluded them from the ANA and the International Council of Nurses.

It's very easy to say, as one moves through the content, that the problems with black nursing paralleled those of white nursing. For every situation in which white women were recognized for their nursing qualities, there were black counterparts. In the Crimea there was Florence Nightingale, from England, and Mary Seacole, from Jamaica. During the American Civil War, there was Dorothea Dix; for the blacks there was Sojourner Truth. Where the white nurses had to fight the image of Sarah Gamp; the black nurses had to battle the notion of the "black `mammy'." Both groups, as women, had to contend with the male belief that nurses needed only "womanly virtues" of `devotion, endurance, sympathy, tactile delicacy, unselfishness, tact, resourcefulness, and willingness to undergo hardship." However there were, like their white male counterparts, a few black male physicians who wanted a "cadre of level-headed, skilled, and resourceful black nurses." As with white nurses, there were black women who "founded hospital training schools" with the vision that nursing training was a means to the "delivery of better health care" and the "autonomous professional."

Black nurses like their white counterparts were both victims of hospitals which saw the labour of students as a means of staffing. When founding hospitals, black physicians considered a training school as a good method to enhance medical practice. Student nurses in some of the hospitals were sent out unsupervised to private homes; the fees from these visits were paid directly to the institute. As one black physician described it in the 1920s, training schools in small proprietary hospitals were a "means of easing economic burdens."

So where's the difference? Black nurses were forced by racism to develop a parallel system of training education and professional organizations. The numbers of token black students in the white nursing school could not provide sufficient nurses for the black population. And in 1896, the black people needed their own nurses in a country where they were segregated as `separate but equal.' In order for the black population to have a similar quality of care, as had the white population, training schools and hospitals for blacks had to be organized.

It is this struggle which Hine documents. The need for funding from white Foundations, such as the John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Julius Rosenwald, to establish training schools. The striving of black leaders to place nursing education within the university, separating it from the service requirements of hospitals. For example, Hine documents the struggle to open a collegiate division of nursing at Dilliard University in New Orleans. The director (Rita Miller, a black nurse with an M.A. from Teacher's College) was funded in 1942 by the Rockefeller Foundation to tour various nursing schools. One of her first stops was at the University of Toronto.

The black nurses had to organize their own professional associations. They formed the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) in 1908 to work towards professional status. When they were excluded almost completely from the American Red Cross's enrolment during the Great War, they formed another organization. In 1917 Adah Thoms helped to establish the Blue Circle Nurses as a means of providing work for black nurses. It standardized and coordinated black public health nursing in black organizations across the country.

But things began to change in the 1930s. There were now 4,000 black nurses. Hine gives credit to three elements which transformed black nursing: 1) some key white nursing leaders in the National Organization for Public Health Nursing, 2) white philanthropists, such as Frances Payne Bolton, Julius Rosenwald and John D. Rockefeller, underwrote the expenses of NACGN, and 3) two black leaders: Estelle Massey Riddle and Mabel K. Staupers who led the NACGN. Riddle sought employment of black nurses in black hospitals, quality control of recruits and integration with ANA. By 1948 black nurses had joined with the ANA and on January 26, 1951 the NACGN was dissolved, its functions now absorbed by the ANA.

Despite the success of the struggle, Hine concludes that racism still exists. Gone is the overt discrimination and segregation; present is "institutionalized racism." Now, Hine writes, more blacks are educated in associate degree programs than in universities and this means that fewer black nurses will be available to "assume leadership roles or occupy the influential positions in the profession." Once again black nurses considered it necessary to form their own organization. In December 1971, the National Black Nurses' Association was created to "articulate the health needs of the black community" and to "set standards and guidelines for quality education of black nurses." Hine concludes that separate institutions and organizations founded by and under the control of black people remain important weapons against racism.

It seems that we have come full circle, the needs of black nursing paralleling those of white nursing. Again, Hine makes us think beyond the borders of America and to use the past to understand the present. Are non-white persons in Canada more likely to be educated in community colleges than in universities? And are our leaders more likely to come from the university programs? But then, a thought like this moves us out of the past and into the present.



Centre for the History of Remote Area Nursing. At the University College of Central Queensland, School of Health Science, Australia. Established in 1989 "to provide a permanent collection of historical material which will record the contribution made by nurses working in remote areas to the health of Australians." Contact: Dr. Amy Zelmer, Chairperson, Dean, School of Health Science, UCCQ, Rockhampton, M.C., Queensland 4702, Australia.

Stuart-Harle, Martin. "Flowers of Flanders Inspired Moving Poem." Globe and Mail, (Toronto) 9 February 1991, Travel Section. The Guelph home of John McCrae, M.D., author of "In Flanders' Fields," is now a museum. It contains "an example of what McCrae's makeshift field station might have looked like." There is also an artificial limb of that period on display.



Brannon, Robert L. "The Reorganization of the Nursing Labor Process: From Team to Primary Nursing." International Journal of Health Services 20, no. 3 (1990): 511-524.

Cott, Nancy F. "What's in a Name? The Limits of `Social Feminism': or, Expanding the Vocabulary of Women's History." Journal of American History 76 (December 1989): 809-829.

Deseret Pharmaceutical Company. "History of Intravenous Therapy." CINA (Journal of Canadian Intravenous Nurses Association) 7 (January/March 1991): 13-14.

Donahue, M. Patricia. "Why Nursing History?" Journal of Professional Nursing 7 (March-April 1991): 77.

"The Spirit of Nursing. Journal of Professional Nursing 7 (May-June 1991): 149.

Dray, William Herbert. "On History as a Humanistic Discipline." In the [Proceedings of] Fourth Annual Conference Canadian Association for the History of Nursing (CAHN) Association Canadienne Pour L'Histoire du Nursing (ACHN), 1-17. Kingston: CAHN/ACHN, 1991.

Leavitt, Judith Walzer. "Medicine in Context: A Review Essay of the History of Medicine." American Historical Review 95 (December 1990): 1471-1484.

Lynaugh, Joan E. "Nursing History Along--At Penn." Journal of Professional Nursing 7 (January-February 1991): 9.

McMahon, Marian. "Nursing Histories: Reviving Life in Abandoned Selves." Feminist Review 37 (Spring 1991): 23-37.

White, William D. "The `Corporatization' of U.S. Hospitals: What can We Learn from the Nineteenth Century Industrial Experience?" International Journal of Health Services 20, no. 1 (1990): 85-113.

Young, Alan R. "`We Throw the Torch': Canadian Memorials of the Great War and the Mythology of Heroic Sacrifice." Journal of Canadian Studies 24 (Winter 1989-90): 5-28.



All of the following are to be found in [Proceedings of the] Fourth Annual Conference Canadian Association for the History of Nursing (CAHN) Association Canadienne Pour L'Histoire du Nursing (ACHN). Kingston: CAHN/ACHN, 1991.

Baldwin, Douglas. "Public Health Nursing Adventures, Mona Wilson in the Balkans, 1920-1922."

Bassendowski, Sandra. "Looking Back to the Future: Nursing Education in Southern Saskatchewan."

Bramadat, Ina J., and Marion I. Saydak. "Roles and Functions of the Nurse in Maternity Care in Canada 1900-1989."

Chaney, Judith A., and Patrick Folk. "A Profession in Caricature: Three Decades of AMA News Cartoons Looking at Nursing."

Freeman, Norma G. "The Beginnings of VON Canada."

Gorrie, Margaret. "Saint Elizabeth's Visiting Nurses' Association: A Case Study in Social and Political Influences on the Development of Visiting Nursing."

Helmstadter, Carol. "The Passing of the Night Watch: A Major Nursing Reform and a Major Nursing Problem."

Keddy, Barbara. "The Congruence of Teaching and Administrative Nursing Ideology in the Early Part of the 20th Century."

Kerr, Janet Ross, and Pauline Paul. "Early Hospitals in Edmonton: The Religious Connection."

McMahon, Marian. "Nursing Histories--Inside and Out."



Brouwer, Ruth Compton. New Women for God: Canadian Presbyterian Women and India Missions, 1876-1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Center for the Study of the History of Nursing. Guide to Nursing Sources in the Research Libraries Information Network's (RLIN) Archival and Manuscripts Control (AMC) Format. c1990. Copies can be ordered from the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, Pennsylvania.

Gagan, David. `A Necessity Among Us': The Owen Sound General and Marine Hospital 1891-1985. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.

Graham, Anne M. For God and For Humanity: History of the Nicholls Hospital and Peterborough Civic Hospital Schools of Nursing 1891-1974. Peterborough: Alumnae Peterborough Civic Hospital School of Nursing, 1991.

Mitchinson, Wendy. The Nature of Their Bodies: Women and Their Doctors in Victorian Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Piersdorff, Kay. `I'd Quit if I had the Time': The Story of the Quo Vadis School of Nursing. Toronto: Quo Vadis Alumni Association, c1987.

Prentice, Alison, and Marjorie R. Theobald, ed. Women Who Taught: Perspectives on the History of Women and Teaching. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.



Du Gas, Beverly Witter. "History of Nursing Education in British Columbia." To be presented at the Annual Meeting of the RNABC History of Nursing Group, 10 April 1991.

Helmstadter, Carol. "Minimum Requirement for Entry into Practice: The 19th Century Nurse's Experience." Presented at Research 1991, Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, 10 April 1991.

. ""Archival Resources for the Study of 19th Century Nurses Reform in England." Presented at History of Canadian Psychiatry/Mental Health: Research in Progress Seminar 1991. Held at Queen Street Mental Health Centre in Toronto, 12 April 1991.

Stuart, Meryn. "`The Government Have Sent Us': Public Health Nurses in Northern Ontario, 1920 through 1925." To be presented at the Second Annual Penn Nursing History Assembly, 13 April 1991. Held in Philadelphia, Penn.

Young, Judy. "A Divine Mission: Elizabeth McMaster and the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto 1875-1892." Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine, 2 June 1991. Held in Kingston, Ontario.



1992, May 19-22. "Voyage into the Future through Nursing Research." Sigma Theta Tau International with nine Sigma Theta Tau chapters in the USA will hold an International Nursing Research Conference in Columbus, Ohio. CONTACT: Ohio State University, Department of Conferences and Institutes, P.O. Box 21878, Columbus, Ohio 43221. 614/292-1301 (for program information) or 614/292-4230 (for registration information).

1992, June 17-20. Conjoint meeting of the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing and the American Association for the History of Nursing in Saint John, New Brunswick.

1993, September. Tenth Annual AAHN Conference with the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Center for the Study of Nursing History.



Nursing in America: History of Social Reform. Produced by the National League of Nursing. c1990. Videocassette. Features photographs from the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, Pennsylvania. Portrays "nursing's position in 19th and 20th century U.S. social history."

Nursing in the 1990's: Cost, Access and Quality of Health Care. Produced by Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower (California). c1990. Videocassette. Features photographs from the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, Pennsylvania. "Historic images of nurses and nursing as a back drop for the current crisis in the health care delivery system."

Gillespie, Rosalind. Handmaidens and Battleaxes: The Real Story of Nursing. Produced by Silver Films. 1990. Videocassette. Won the Australian Film Institute Award for best documentary. "Traces the role of nursing from the pre-industrial period to the present."


The Lillian Sholtis Brunner Summer Fellowship. Stipend of $2,500.00 to support six to eight weeks of residential study and use of the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. Contact: Joan Lynaugh, Center Director, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, Nursing Education Building, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104-6096 or call 215/898-5074. Application deadline is 31 December 1991.



Corbin, Juliet, and Anselm Strauss. "Grounded Theory Research: Procedures, Canons, and Evaluative Criteria." Qualitative Sociology 13, no. 1 (1990): 3-21.

Craig, Barbara L. Medical Archives: What They Are and How to Keep Them. Toronto: Associated Medical Services, Inc., and Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine, c1990.

Dowdall, George W., and Janet Golden. "Photographs as Data: An Analysis of Images from a Mental Hospital." Qualitative Sociology 12 (Summer 1989): 183-213.

Kirkpatrick, Helen, and Mary-Lou Martin. "Communicating Nursing Research through Poster Presentations." Western Journal of Nursing Research 13 (February 1991): 145-148.

Sheets-Pyenson, Susan. "New Directions for Scientific Biography: The Case of Sir William Dawson." History of Science 28 (December 1990): 399-410.

Steppe, Hilda. "Historical Research." In Their Care is Our Concern: Proceedings of the 13th Meeting of the Workshop of European Nurse Researchers Held in Budapest 3-4 September 1990, 306-317.



Orr, Dorothy, and Muriel Shewchuk. The Official History of the Operating Room Nurses Association of Canada 1965-1991. Canada: ORNAC, 1991.

Victorian Order of Nurses Canada. "History/Historique." Ottawa: VON, n.d. 4pp.

Beth Martin responded to the item about Elizabeth McMaster in the last Bulletin. She wrote,

I could not agree more with what you said . . . about nursing in the past and present. We tend to be elitist in our views and so sure that the modern way is so much better. It is good to be reminded of our ongoing relationship with our past and more importantly, with the lessons to be learned from it.

Thank you Beth and thank you Judy Young for making McMaster visible.



International Council of Nurses and the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing are undertaking a four year study of international nursing in celebration of the ICN's 100th anniversary. Tentative title of the study is "Centennial History of the International Council of Nurses."

Nursing Research. The January/February 1992 issue is to be devoted to the history of nursing.


Your success depends on your determination to continue to perfect your tools by experience and study and on your courage to keep to the road no matter how hilly it becomes or how difficult to climb.

Jean I. Gunn, Year Book (TGH), 4 (1926), 6.



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