School of Nursing

Famous & Notable Nurses in History

Alcott, Louisa May

Authored Little Women; volunteered for 6 weeks as a nurse in the Union Army during the American Civil War and wrote a book called Hospital Sketches (pub. 1863) based on her experience; Hospital Sketches received popular and critical acclaim at the time of publication

Barton, Clara (Clarissa Harlowe Barton)

Founded the Red Cross; known as the “angel of the battlefield” during the American Civil War

Bickerdyke, Mary Ann

Hospital administrator and nurse during the American Civil War; established 300 field hospitals during the war and advocated for soldiers, veterans, and helped many secure pensions with legal assistance

  • Freely available resources

    • ’Commissioned by God’: Mother Bickerdyke during the Civil War,” Sartin (2003) in Oxford Military Medicine

    • Bio from the Ohio History Collection

    • Bio from the Library of Congress collection

  • Subscription resources

    • WALKER, MARCENA. (2003). MARY ANN BICKERDYKE: Mother to the Union Boys. Journal of Christian Nursing, 20, 35-36.

Blake, Florence Guinness

Instrumental in the development of advanced nursing education programs; pioneer in pediatric nursing

  • Freely available resources

Bradley, Ruby

A US Army Nurse Corps Officer; a POW of the Japanese in WWII; one of the most decorated women in military history

Breckenridge, Mary

Driver of rural healthcare in US; instrumental in development of the professional role of the nurse midwife; founded the Fronter Nursing Service

Cannary, Martha Jane (Calamity Jane)

Cared for the sick in Deadwood, SD during the smallpox epidemic of 1878

Carnegie, Mary Elizabeth 

Dix, Dorothea

Directed nurses during the American Civil War; advocated for the mentally ill; there is some debate about whether she should be considered a nurse

Dock, Lavinia

Pioneer in nursing education and suffragette

  • Freely available resources

    • Garofalo, M. E., & Fee, E. (2015). Lavinia Dock (1858-1956): picketing, parading, and protesting. American journal of public health, 105(2), 276–277.

    • Bio on the AAHN site (1858-1956)

Fu, Mei R.

Current nurse researcher in the area of lymphedema; helped to found the Chinese American Nurses Association

Henderson, Virginia Avenel

Developed “Need Theory,” which promoted patient independence; wrote and published Basic Principles of Nursing Care, which is likened to Notes on Nursing in importance and relevance; global impact on nursing research

  • Freely available resources

    • Bio from AAHN (1897-1996)

    • Bio from Post University (2020)

    • Bio from the Sigma Repository

  • Subscription resources

    • She published quite a lot, most of it is prior to the 1990’s and isn’t digital. I can provide a bibliography, but there wouldn’t be live links in all likelihood.

Johnson-Brown, Hazel W.

Served as Chief of the Army Nurse Corps and was the first black female to become a General in the Army

  • Freely available resources

    • Obituary in the Washington Post (2011)

    • Bio in the US Army Profiles of African Americans

    • Bio from George Mason University

Kofoworola, Abeni Pratt

Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-92) was an outstanding nursing leader, well recognized for her work in her home country, Nigeria, but scarcely known in the United Kingdom, despite her significant British connections and international reputation. She was the first Black person to train at the Nightingale School, then based at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, starting in 1946.


Lincoln, Mary Todd

Volunteered in the hospitals in Washington, DC after the Battle of the First Bull Run and in the Union hospitals during the American Civil War

Lynch, Virginia

Instrumental in developing and defining forensic nursing; established the first post-sexual assault care clinic

Mahoney, Mary E.

First black female nurse professionally licensed in the US;

Maxwell, Anna Caroline

Contributed to nursing education validating the effectiveness of training nurses during the Spanish-American War; influenced the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps (1901)

Murillo-Rohde, Ildaura

Instrumental in founding the National Association of Hispanic Nurses; began her nursing career in San Antonio; first Hispanic Dean of Nursing at NYU

This is a link to her works indexed in PubMed:

Peplau, Hildegard

Major contributor nursing theory; first published nursing theorist since Nightingale; created Middle Range Nursing theory and contributed to mental health law reform; “Mother” of psychiatric nursing

Pettus, Viola

Black nurse in Texas who is remembered for her bravery during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic; famous for caring for all those who sought treatment

  • Freely available resources

Richards, Linda

First professionally trained American nurse; established nurse training programs in the US and Japan; invented patient medical records

Sanger, Margaret

Pioneering advocate for women’s health and access to safe and effective contraception; founded the Birth Control Federation of America, which later became Planned Parenthood after Sanger’s departure; there has been some debate recently about her attitude toward ethnic minorities

Seacole, Mary

Set up the “British Hotel” for convalescent British Officers during the Crimean War; tended to battlefield wounded; the British War Office rejected her application to join their Nursing Contingent; there is debate about her status as a nurse due to lack of formal training, or as potentially the first nurse practitioner due to the practical application of her “doctress” skills

Togasaki, Kazue

Trained as a nurse, but was unable to secure employment due to discrimination; enrolled in medical school becoming one of the first Japanese women in the US to earn an MD; led a medical team at the Tanforan Assembly Center where she was detained during WWII

Tubman, Harriet

Having escaped enslavement, she served as a nurse to the Gullah people and in the Union hospitals during the American Civil War

Villaescusa, Henrieta

First Hispanic nurse to be appointed Health Administrator, in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare

  • Freely available resources

    • Bio on the NAHN site

    • Obituary in the Pasadena Star News (2005)

Whitman, Walt

Whitman moved to Washington, DC especially to volunteer to care for the wounded at Union hospitals during the American Civil; many of his works were inspired by his experiences there

Native American and Indigenous Nurses You Should Know About

  • Jean Cuthand Goodwill

  • Cuthand Goodwill

  • Betty Mae Tiger Jumper

  • Edith Anderson Monture

  • Margaret Moss

  • Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail