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:



Buhler-Wilkerson, Karen. False Dawn: The Rise and Decline of Public Health Nursing, 1900-1930. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc, 1989. 293 pp.

In five chapters Karen Buhler-Wilkerson lays out her thesis that public health nursing in the United States began at the turn of the century with great expectations and by the 1930s had fizzled. She closes with the depressing thought that "the promise of public health nursing was little more than a false dawn." Buhler-Wilkerson succeeds in explaining "why a movement that might have become a significant vehicle for delivering comprehensive health care to the American public failed to reach its potential." In brief, she argues that public health nursing started as a shared endeavour between women, who funded the private visiting nursing associations, and nurses, who supervised, gave the bedside care and did the teaching. These nurses had freedom and power over the nursing care they provided. However, when "bedside care" was separated from the preventive aspects of the nurses' role and the latter was given to government departments of health the public health nurses employed by the official or government agencies lost their independence. These nurses came under the control of medical officers of health.

As much as Buhler-Wilkerson aims "to provide an historical analysis of the origins and subsequent development of public health nursing in the United States between the 1880's and the depression of the 1930's" her history of public health nursing in the States does not encompass the struggle of the black nurses in public health nursing or events on the western seaboard of the country. Nevertheless, she does provide a glimpse of the dissension among organizations such as the National Organization for Public Health Nursing, the American Red Cross and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and the struggles of visiting nursing associations in Philadelphia, Boston and Providence, Rhode Island and agencies in New York and Cleveland. She also brings to life Mary Beard, the public health nurse. Beard is more well known to Canadian nurses for her work with the Rockefeller Foundation and the funding of schools of nursing in Canadian universities than she is as a visiting nurse and superintendent of the Boston Instructive District Nursing Association.

Though the history of public health nursing in the States differs from that of Canada, Buhler-Wilkerson's book provides us with a basis for comparison. In the USA, visiting nursing started with individual organizations which later sought standardization and unity within the National Organization for Public Health Nursing; in Canada, it began with a national organization, the Victorian Order of Nurses. In the States, the NOPHN and other nursing organizations decried the competitive stance of the Red Cross when that agency provided public health nursing in the rural communities; in Canada, the Red Cross was a strong supporter of organized nursing. However, Buhler-Wilkerson's thesis that public health nurses employed in government health departments had less control over their work process and standards than those employed as visiting nurses by voluntary or non-government agencies has meaning for Canadian nursing. It should be taken to heart by Canadian nurses who have argued to have the official health departments absorb the work of the VON; according to Buhler-Wilkerson's interpretation, the disappearance of the VON from the health care system would mean a further loss of control by nurses over nursing.

Though the book was originally Buhler-Wilkerson's doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, it can be read with ease and enjoyment. Many nuggets of information are to be found in the extensive notes appended to each chapter. Garland Publishing Inc., has produced an aesthetically pleasing book. There are a few typos, the most important of which is on p. 60, the year in which Ella Crandall recommended Mary Beard for the job is given as 1919 but should be, according to the footnote on p.79, 1911.

In writing nursing history, Buhler-Wilkerson, a nurse, has come to appreciate the stories told by her mother who trained in the 1930s; she imbues her topic with a love for nursing. Buhler-Wilkerson has continued her interest in nursing history and more recently has been studying the history of home care in the United States, and private duty nurses who gave care in the home during the 1920s and the 1930s. She can be found at the University of Pennsylvania where she is one of the Associate Directors of the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing.



Baer, Ellen D. "`A Cooperative Venture' in Pursuit of Professional Status: A Research Journal for Nursing." Nursing Research 36 (January-February 1987): 18-25. [Winner of the 1988 Lavinia Dock Award given by the American Association for the History of Nursing.]

. "Aspirations Unattained: The Story of the Illinois Training School's Search for University Status." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 43-48.

Bramadat, Ina. "Canadian Association for the History of Nursing/Association Canadienne pour L'Histoire du Nursing (CAHN/ACHN)." Bulletin (American Association for the History of Nursing) 33 (Winter 1992): 3.

Buhler-Wilkerson, Karen. "Caring in It's `Proper Place': Race and Benevolence in Charleston, SC, 1813-1930." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 14-20.

Cramer, Susan. "The Nature of History: Meditations on Clio's Craft." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 4-7.

Donahue, M. Patricia. "What If?" Journal of Professional Nursing 8 (January-February 1992): 4. (courtesy Moira Lynch).

Downs, Florence S. "`The Big 40'." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 3.

Fairman, Julie. "Watchful Vigilance: Nursing Care, Technology, and the Development of Intensive Care Units." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 56-60.

Field, Peggy Anne. "Midwifery in Canada." NWTRNA (Northwest Territories Registered Nurses Association) (October-December 1991): 4-5. [courtesy Dr. Helen Mussallem].

Forrester, D. Anthony, and Pamela M. Granddinetti. "Nurses on Stamps: A Distinguished History." American Journal of Nursing 92 (May 1992): 62-65.

Hamilton, Dianne. "Research and Reform: Community Nursing and the Framingham Tuberculosis Project, 1914-1923." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 8-13.

Kerr, Janet C. Ross. "Milestones in Canadian Nursing History." Journal of Professional Nursing 8 (May-June 1992): 139.

Pokorny, Marie E. "An Historical Perspective of Confederate Nursing During the Civil War, 1861-1865." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 28-32.

Schell, Ellen. "Nurses Under Attack: The Lewes Riot and the Society of St. Margaret." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 33-38.

Stuart, Meryn. "`Half a Loaf is Better than No Bread': Public Health Nurses and Physicians in Ontario, 1920-1925." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 21-27.

Tomaselli, Sylvana. "Reflections on the History of the Science of Woman." History of Science 29 (June 1991): 185-205.

Weinberg, David, and Karen Buhler-Wilkerson. "The Changing Face of Nursing." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 40-42.

Widerquist, Joann G. "The Spirituality of Florence Nightingale." Nursing Research 41 (January-February 1992): 49-55.



Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. Director is Barbara Brodie, RN, PhD. For information write or telephone the University of Virginia, School of Nursing, McLeod Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Telephone 804/924-0131.



History of the Charlottetown Hospital School of Nursing and the Charlottetown Hospital. Charlottetown, P.E.I.: Alumnae of the Charlottetown Hospital School of Nursing, 1991.

McGee, Arlee Hoyt. The Visionaries 1916-1991. Fredericton, New Brunswick: Nurses Association of New Brunswick, 1991.

Stinson, Shirley M., Joy L. Johnson, and Glennis Zilm. History of Nursing Beginning Bibliography: A Proemial List with Special Reference to Canadian Sources. Edmonton, Alberta: Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, 1992. (See enclosed.)



Meryn Stuart on Teresa Christy Awards Subcommittee of American Association for the History of Nursing. Term ends Fall 1993.



6-9 November 1992. "The Politics of Caring II: Health and Health Care Policy: Women's Strategies for Change." This conference is sponsored by numerous groups at Emory University, including, the Institute for Women's Studies, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, the Divisions of Nursing of Emory University Hospital and Crawford Long Hospital. Contact: Jennie P. Perryman, Planning Committee Chair, Emory University, 1364 Clifton Rd., NE, Box 7, Atlanta, Georgia 30322. Tel. (404) 727-3181. FAX: (404) 371-8200.

21-24 July 1993. "Nursing, Women's History and the Politics of Welfare." An international conference to be held at Florence Nightingale Hall, University of Nottingham, England. For additional information contact: Jane Robinson or Anne-Marie Rafferty, Department of Nursing Studies, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2UH. Fax: (0602) 709259.

1-3 October 1993. Tenth Annual Conference of the American Association for the History of Nursing (AAHN) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia. Deadline for Abstract submission is 15 January 1993. Send Abstract to Wanda C. Hiestand, RN, EdD., AAHN Abstract Review Committee, 2 Revere Court, Apt. 2107, Suffern, NY 10901.

Fall 1994. Eleventh Annual Conference of AAHN and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing.

Fall 1995. Twelfth Annual Conference of AAHN and the University of Arkansas School of Nursing, Little Rock.

Fall 1996. Thirteenth Annual Conference of AAHN and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.



Lillian Wald Papers from the holdings of Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library have been microfilmed (90 reels) by Research Publications, 12 Lunar Dr./Drawer AB, Woodbridge, CT 06525. Telephone: 203/397-2600 or 800/444-0799 (USA only?). Fax: 203/397-3893.



Alice Fisher Society Historical Scholarship. To be awarded in 1993. Deadline is probably 31 December 1992. The $2,500 fellowship will support 6-8 weeks of residential study and use of materials held by the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. The scholarship is open to nurses at the masters or doctoral level who are seeking assistance with nursing history research and writing. Contact: Joan Lynaugh (see Brunner scholarship)

Lilian Sholtis Brunner Summer Fellowship for Historical Research in Nursing. To be awarded in 1993. Deadline is 31 December 1992. The $2,500 fellowship will support 6-8 weeks of residential study and use of materials held by the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. A Brunner scholar must show evidence of preparation or productivity in historical research related to nursing. Contact: Joan Lynaugh, RN, PhD, FAAN, Director, Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, 307 Nursing Education Building, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6096. Tel. (215) 898-4502.



Sandelowski, Margarete. "Telling Stories: Narrative Approaches in Qualitative Research." Image 23 (Fall 1991): 161-166.

Swanson, Elizabeth A., Joanne Comi McCloskey, and Anne Bodensteiner. "Publishing Opportunities for Nurses: A Comparison of 92 U.S. Journals." Image 23 (Spring 1991): 33-38.


"Bombs Hit Two Canadian Hospitals: Nurses Disdain Death to Help Wounded Men." Toronto Daily Star, 18 May 1992, A2. Reprint from The Toronto Daily Star, 23 May 1918.

"The Canadian Red Cross Renovates Former TTH [The Toronto Hospital] Building." Caring (The Toronto Hospital Staff Newsletter) 4 (17 January 1992): 1-[2].

The old Hospital for Sick Children, at 67 College Street is to be gutted to make room for the new Toronto Blood Centre. The facade will be maintained--it was built in the 1890s.

Hume, Christopher. "Restoration Rescues Fortress of Medicine from 43-year Limbo." Toronto Star, 8 February 1992, J12.

Hume writes that the Hospital for Sick Children was once known as the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children and that the building on College Street was "finished in 1891, [and] was the first such institution in North America." Sick Kids moved out of in 1949 to its present location on University Avenue. The front and sides and the two large entry halls will be saved. The copper-roofed cupola which "vanished decades ago . . . will be replaced."

"The Way We Were: 1897: How Nurses Live." Toronto Daily Star, 16 January 1992, A2. Reprint from The Star, 11 March 1897.



Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia. Survey of Nursing History Materials in British Columbia. Vancouver: RNABC, December 1990.



On 26 February 1992, Chrissy Cole of Fogo Island, Newfoundland was presented in the "Local Heroes" segment of News Magazine on CBC television. According to the advertising blurb for the program, Chrissy Cole "helped a remote Newfoundland community survive for over forty years."

On 27 February 1992, Mary Berglund of Ignace, Ontario was the subject of "Distant Voices" on TVOntario. She is described as "the only nurse to be granted honourary membership in the Ontario Medical Association" and as a pioneer in "the role of nurse practitioner in Northern Ontario.

On 1 March 1992, the Susan Nelles' story was dramatized in "The Scales of Justice" on CBC Toronto. The presentation was hosted by lawyer Edward Greenspan.



Dr. Helen Mussallem sent in the following information about three Canadian stamps which honour nurses and nursing:

On November 8, 1991 the Canada Post Corporation issued a stamp depicting women in the armed services in 1941; it was one of four stamps in the series entitled "Total War." Included in the group was a Nursing Sister. The press release indicated that "4,439 women were enlisted as nursing sisters and that nursing sisters `often worked close to the front to treat wounded'." This is the first stamp to recognize the military nurse.

However, nurses have been honoured in two earlier Canadian stamps. In July 1958, a stamp which commemorated nursing and health services in general showed a nurse in a white nurse's uniform and in 1973, the 300th anniversary of the death of Jeanne Mance was celebrated.



On February 9, 1898, in the Public Hall of the Toronto Normal School, Mary Agnes Snively closed her presidential address at the meeting of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses with a quote from Emerson:

We shall one day see that the most private is the most public energy, that quality atones for quantity, and grandeur of character acts in the dark, and succors them who never saw it.


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