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Nurses Make History


Nurses don’t only save lives – they also have the power to change the world. Here are just a few of history’s most impactful nurses:

Hazel Johnson-Brown: Johnson-Brown was the first African American woman to serve as the director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing, chief nurse of the army hospital in Seoul, and brigadier general of the Army Nurse Corps. Not bad for someone who was rejected from her local nursing school because of her skin color.

Goldie G. Brangman: Nurse anesthetist Brangman co-founded the school of anesthesia at Harlem Hospital, and was the first African American president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. After the attempted assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1958, Brangman manually pumped his breathing bag to keep him alive.

Margaret Sanger: Women in 2022 with reproductive rights have Margaret Sanger to thank. Sanger was one of the first advocates for birth control, offering support to poor women in tenement housing and eventually founding what would become Planned Parenthood.

Walt Whitman: Did you know the world-famous poet was also a nurse? Though he never trained, he volunteered as a nurse after his brother was injured in the Civil War. He visited hospitals caring for wounded soldiers, offering emotional support and even helping them contact their families. The experience inspired Whitman’s book of poetry, “Drum-Taps.”

Lillian Wald: In the 1890’s, Wald brought basic nursing care and good hygiene to immigrants in New York City, who were living in deplorable conditions and had poor access to healthcare. This inspired her to start the Visiting Nurse Service, which is still a model followed around the world today. Wald also helped establish the National Organization for Public Health Nursing, the National Women’s Trade Union League, and the Children’s Bureau.

How will you make history?