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Arnstein, Margaret (27 October 1904–08 October 1972), public health nurse and educator, was born Margaret Gene Arnstein in New York City, the daughter of Leo Arnstein, a successful businessman, and Elsie Nathan, a volunteer social worker. She was exposed to public health nursing at an early age by her parents, both second-generation Jewish Americans of German heritage, who were involved with ...

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Beard, Mary (14 November 1876–04 December 1946), public health administrator, was born in Dover, New Hampshire, the daughter of Ithamar Warren Beard, an Episcopalian minister, and Marcy Foster. At the age of twelve she contracted diphtheria and was confined to her home for an extended convalescence, during which she was cared for by a kind visiting nurse. Deeply moved by the experience, she determined to devote her own life to nursing. She eventually dropped out of high school and then worked for several years as a private tutor in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1899 she enrolled in the New York Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated in 1903 and the next year began caring for sick people in their homes as a staff nurse for the year-old Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Waterbury, Connecticut....

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Bickerdyke, Mary Ann Ball (19 July 1817–08 November 1901), Civil War nurse, was born in Knox County, Ohio, the daughter of Hiram Ball and Anne Rodgers, farmers. When her mother died in December 1818, Mary Ann, her sister, and her mother’s two children from a previous marriage were sent to the farm of their Rodgers grandparents in Mansfield, Richland County, Ohio, about thirty miles north of Mount Vernon. Her father remarried in 1821 and subsequently moved to Belleville, about ten miles from Mansfield. Little is known of Mary Ann Ball’s early life or education. She and her sister may have rejoined their father for a time, but after the death of their grandparents they also lived with their Ohioan uncle Henry Rodgers. Some accounts have her attending Oberlin College in 1833, studying in Cincinnati, caring for victims of a cholera epidemic in 1837, and participating in the Underground Railroad to Ohio. Recent research has found no evidence to corroborate these stories but rather suggests that she traveled with an aunt, evangelist Lydia Brown, and lived for a time in Cleveland working as a domestic servant. She may have also provided nursing assistance in the Cincinnati cholera epidemic in 1849....

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Bragg, Janet (24 March 1907–11 April 1993), aviator, nurse, and nursing home proprietor, was born Janet Harmon in Griffin, Georgia, the daughter of Cordia Batts Harmon and Samuel Harmon, a brick contractor. The Batts family had long been established in Griffin. Bragg's maternal grandfather was a freed slave of Spanish descent, and her maternal grandmother was a Cherokee. Bragg's grandfather had built the house in which she and her siblings were born; her mother had been born in the same house. Bragg, the youngest of seven children, had a happy childhood, enjoying sports and games and excelling at school. In an interview conducted at the University of Arizona as part of a project called African Americans in Aviation in Arizona, Bragg reminisced: “We were a very happy family. We were not a rich family, only rich in love.”...

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Nutting, Mary Adelaide (01 November 1858–03 October 1948), nurse educator, was born in Quebec, Canada, the daughter of Vespasion Nutting, a county clerk of the circuit court, and Harriet Sophia Peasley (earlier Peaselee). Before her birth the Nutting family had moved from Massachusetts to Quebec, joining the other New England Loyalists who had relocated in Canada after the American Revolution....

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Shabazz, Betty (28 May 1936?–23 June 1997), civil rights activist, educator, nurse, mother, was born Betty Dean Sanders, the daughter of Shelman Sandlin, a construction worker, and the teenager Ollie Mae Sanders from Pinehurst, Michigan. (Because her birth certificate is lost, scholars are uncertain about her place of birth.) Her young parents were unmarried—this was a social stigma in 1930s America—and her relationship with her mother was stormy. When she was eleven years old, she was adopted by Helen and Lorenzo Malloy, affluent, middle-class African American Methodists from Detroit, Michigan. Providing Shabazz with many social and material advantages, the Malloys also valued educational attainment, and they pushed her to excel in her classes and study hard. After graduating from high school, Shabazz enrolled in Alabama's Tuskegee University, then known as Tuskegee Institute, one of the nation's most distinguished places of higher education for African Americans. However, she was not happy there. Unaccustomed to the blatant racism of Jim Crow laws, she quickly decamped to New York City in 1956 to continue her studies....

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Stimson, Julia Catherine (26 May 1881–29 September 1948), nursing leader and superintendent of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the daughter of Henry Albert Stimson, a prominent Congregational minister, and Alice Wheaton Bartlett, a civic leader. Both parents were descendants of long-established New England families with a strong tradition of public service and professional achievement that their seven children would continue. Parental expectations were as high for their daughters as for their sons. At a time when only 3 percent of American women went to college, all four Stimson daughters were sent to Vassar College, and three of them obtained graduate degrees....

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Wald, Lillian D. (10 March 1867–01 September 1940), public health nurse and social reformer, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Max D. Wald, a dealer in optical wares, and Minnie Schwarz, both German immigrants. The family moved to Rochester, New York, and became part of the affluent German-Jewish community. Lillian enjoyed a happy, indulged childhood far removed from the urban poverty and ghetto life that absorbed her as an adult....