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Bacon, Georgeanna Muirson Woolsey (05 November 1833–27 January 1906), Civil War nurse and philanthropist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Charles William Woolsey, a merchant, and Jane Eliza Newton. Raised on fashionable Sheafe Street in Boston, “Georgy” attended Misses Murdock’s School. After her father’s death on a river steamer, the ...

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Buckel, C. Annette (25 August 1833–17 August 1912), physician, Civil War nurse, and mental health activist, was born Cloe Annette Buckel in Warsaw, New York, the daughter of Thomas Buckel and his wife (given name unknown), whose surname was Bartlett. Both parents died when Buckel, an only child, was three months old. Until the age of four she lived with her grandparents, and after they died she lived with two young aunts, neither of whom exhibited much warmth toward her. By age four Buckel had learned to read and write. Quickly outgrowing the local district school, she moved on to a more advanced one in a neighboring town. At age fourteen she started teaching school, boarding with her students’ parents, both in New York State and in Canada. While a youth she decided to become a physician. Financially unable to immediately begin formal medical school, she worked in a burnishing factory in Connecticut, living with her employer’s family, and studied Latin as she worked. By living simply and borrowing on a life insurance policy she had purchased, Buckel was able to enter the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1856. She later demonstrated the high regard she felt for the school by leaving it a bequest in her will....

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Davis, Frances Elliott (28 April 1882–02 May 1965), public health nurse, nurse-educator, and community advocate, was born in Shelby, North Carolina, the daughter of an unlawful interracial marriage between Darryl Elliott, a part African-American Cherokee sharecropper, and Emma (maiden name unknown), the daughter of a plantation owner and Methodist minister. Darryl Elliott fled the state early in Frances’s life, leaving her to be raised by her mother. Both parents had died by 1887, after which Davis was raised in a succession of foster homes. At the age of twelve she was sent to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lived under the guardianship of the Reverend Mr. Vickers. In the Vickers household she was regarded more as a domestic helper than a ward; consequently her early formal education was pursued on a sporadic basis. Determined to succeed, she possessed the intrepidity to upgrade her reading skills on her own....

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Delano, Jane Arminda (12 March 1858–15 April 1919), nurse and administrator, was born in Townsend, New York, the daughter of George Delano, a Union soldier who died of yellow fever in 1864, and Mary Ann Wright. Some sources list the year of her birth as 1862. Her mother later married Samuel Thomson, and Delano grew up in their home in Montour Falls, New York, where she attended a country school and Cook Academy. Delano taught in a country school for two terms; then, influenced by a friend preparing for missionary nursing in India, she enrolled in 1884 in the Bellevue Hospital Training School for Nurses in New York City, graduating in 1886....

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Dock, Lavinia Lloyd (26 February 1858–17 April 1956), nurse, suffragist, and social reformer, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Gilliard Dock and Lavinia Lloyd Bombaugh, landlords. Dock, who later came to think of herself as a feminist, received what she called an “oldfashioned and conventional” education at a local female academy. Her life was basically carefree until her mother died when Dock was eighteen, leaving her and her older sister with the responsibility of raising their four siblings....

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Haupt, Alma Cecilia (19 March 1893–15 March 1956), public health nursing leader, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Charles Edgar Haupt, an Episcopal minister, and Alexandra Dougan. As the young sister of four brothers, Haupt described her childhood as a “tomboy existence tempered with exposure to the cultural and religious life” of her prominent St. Paul family. After completion of secondary education at West High School in St. Paul, she entered the Liberal Arts College at the University of Minnesota in 1911 and graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. After working for a year as a playground instructor in St. Paul and a social worker in Minneapolis, Haupt searched for a career that would provide her with mobility and, consequently, enrolled in the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. Upon graduation in 1919, she accepted a nursing position with the Minneapolis Visiting Nurse Association (MVNA), and within three years she became its nursing superintendent (1922–1924). Years later, Haupt recalled that the MVNA tasks of supervising home care and establishing a public health course for university nursing students were instrumental in directing her lifelong commitment to nursing’s critical role in the public’s health....

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Jean, Sally Lucas (18 June 1878–05 July 1971), health educator and nurse, was born in Towson, Maryland, the daughter of George Jean, a teacher, and Emilie Watkins Selby. Her mother was a devout Episcopalian from the South, while her father, who had fought for the northern troops during the Civil War, had been raised in a Presbyterian family. Jean, the youngest of their three children, had two experiences early in life that led her to dream of a nursing career. A close friend died of diphtheria, and shortly after that Jean played Florence Nightingale in a school play. Learning of Nightingale’s life-saving heroics, Jean resolved to follow in her footsteps. When Jean was fifteen her father died and she told her family of her desire to become a nurse. They urged her to become a teacher instead like her father. Obligingly she entered the Maryland State Normal School, from which she graduated in 1896....

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Kenny, Elizabeth (20 September 1880–30 November 1952), nurse and developer of a treatment for poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis), nurse and developer of a treatment for poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis), was born in Warialda, New South Wales, Australia, the daughter of Michael Kenny and Mary Moore, homesteaders. Kenny’s family moved frequently during her childhood, and her education was scattered and limited. At the age of eighteen she zealously taught herself the principles of anatomy and muscle function with the help of a surgeon friend, Aeneas John McDonnell, in order to help her brother William strengthen his frail frame through calisthenics....

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Richards, Linda (27 July 1841–16 April 1930), nursing leader and pioneer, was born Melinda Ann Judson Richards near Potsdam, New York, the daughter of Sanford Richards and Betsy Sinclair. No information on her early life and education is available. Evangelical religious roots and missionary habits, however, provided foundation, character, and purpose to Richards’s nursing life. As she wrote in her autobiography of 1911, “Quite early in my teens I was called upon for such service … ” In an era that preceded any sort of formal nurses’ training, when minimal hospital sick-care was provided by charwomen, unemployed men, or recovering patients, Richards worked at Boston City Hospital and “learned how little care was given to the sick, how little their groans and restlessness meant to most of the [untrained] nurses … the majority [of whom] were thoughtless, careless, and often heartless.” Determined to reform sick-care, Richards embarked upon her nursing career, which lasted forty years and included superintendencies at myriad institutions: four major hospitals, four smaller ones, four mental institutions (one of which she returned to for a second time), one Visiting Nurse Service, and one foreign school. In addition, she visited three British hospitals and consulted on the founding of other schools, including the first hospital school for nursing the insane in America....

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Betty Shabazz wife of the late Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X, shown in 1972. Associated Press

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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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Lillian D. Wald Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1937. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-9448-003-A-x).

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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....

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Woolsey, Jane Stuart (07 February 1830–09 July 1891), nursing administrator, philanthropist, and author, was born aboard the ship Fanny en route to New York from Norwich, Connecticut, the daughter of Charles William Woolsey, a merchant, and Jane Eliza Newton. The family lived in England for two years with her paternal grandparents, then settled in Boston, where her father’s sugar-refining business continued to thrive and Jane and her sisters attended Misses Murdock’s School....