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A White female nurse on a motorcycle, looking at the viewer, castle in background.

Rural visiting nurse Elizabeth McPhee, Scotland, 1926

The postcard is a fleeting and widespread art form influenced by popular ideas about social and cultural life in addition to fashions in visual style. Nurses and nursing have been the frequent subjects of postcards for over one hundred years. In fact, no other art form has illustrated the nursing profession so profusely using such a variety of artistic styles and images...Continue to Introduction

A White female dressed Classically as Hygeia, pouring the contents of a vase on an altar.

Hygea “The First Nurse,” 1933. Produced by Ring Sanatorium and Hospital Inc., Arlington Heights, MA

Ideas about women, health care, and healing in Western cultures have religious and cultural origins reaching back to ancient times. Later, with the coming of Christianity, the care of the sick is largely undertaken by religious nursing orders, such as the Sisters of Charity...Continue to Picturing a Woman's Mission: Service to Humanity

Groups of White female nurses, some wearing goggles, administer treatment to patients.

Trained nurses administer the Finsen Light Treatment at the London Hospital, ca. 1900

Nursing as a profession began about 150 years ago led by social reformers, like Florence Nightingale, in the United Kingdom and the United States...Continue to Picturing Nursing as a Career

Fifteen White male nurses sitting in a group on a grass lawn.

Group of male nurses of Dixmont Hospital, PA, ca. 1910

The idea that nursing is exclusively women’s work has a long history. The reality, however, is far more complex. For hundreds of years, men have undertaken aspects of nursing work often in all-male institutions such as religious organizations and the military. Yet, their contributions are largely invisible...Continue to Picturing the Gender of Nursing

Nine African American female nurses in white standing in a group looking at the viewer.

Nurses from the George A. Brewster Nurse Training School pose for a group portrait, Jacksonville, FL, 1908

Social reformers in the mid to latter half of the 19th century believed that White, middle-class respectability should form the basis of the “ideal” nurse. These attitudes shaped how the profession of nursing responded to people of lower classes and different races, and influenced the way the profession developed in the United Kingdom and United States as well as Europe’s...Continue to Nursing and Respectability

Two White male doctors and two White female nurses in the middle of an operation.

Operating team, 1951. Produced by US Army Nurse Corps

Popular art during the 19th century favored a sentimental use of nursing archetypes such as the “angel” or “mother.” On Valentine and “get well” cards, the use of word play and innuendo often revealed an undercurrent of sexual fantasy. As the 20th century progressed, advertising images of nurses frequently featured increasingly saucy, sexualized...Continue to The Art of Nursing