Who can we look to beyond Florence Nightingale for role models in nursing?

Not many nurses possess a political history of our profession, and our professional identity is often detached from even our most basic history. Nursing has a complex and rich history of leading social movements, but also of being complicit in perpetuating and defending social structures of systemic discrimination. From the forced sterilization of Indigenous women to the criminalization of substance abuse and birth control, nursing has often contributed to harm done to populations in marginalized settings.


On the other hand, nurses have also been central leaders of social justice movements. It is important to celebrate historical nursing leaders in all their diversity. Who can we look to beyond Florence Nightingale as role models in nursing? There are a number of nursing role models who are not included in our mainstream history, leaders who help us understand both our leadership role in social movements, but also the barriers of racism, sexism and ableism that continue to exist in society and nursing.


Check out these nursing leaders!

· Charlotte Edith Monture: First Indigenous RN

· Emma Goldman: Early advocate for educating women regarding contraception

· Irene Sandler: Saved the most lives as a civilian in WW2

· Mary Seacole: Pioneering nurse and heroine of the Crimean War

· Salaria Kea: The only African American nurse working in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion during the Spanish Civil War


Written by Sasha Mazzarello

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