Women's Medical College of Philadelphia

Religious Women – Role in Nursing and Nursing education

Before Florence Nightingale brought reforms to nursing , there were religious women ─ Catholic Nursing Sisters (Nuns)  and Protestant  Deaconesses ─  whose vows included  the care of the sick . They were often called to nurse victims of  typhoid, cholera and other epidemics. and through their religious communities were responsible for starting hospitals throughout the young country.

Dr. Ann Preston

Read More About their role - Go to theHospital Page on this website

Sentimental Women Need Not Apply

(Excerpt) 

The Way We Were....History of One School..

Lifelong Learning:The Evolution of Nursing Education

Mary Eliza Mahoney: First Trained Black Nurse

Time Line - Linda Richards History and Career

Time_Line_Linda_Richards.pdf

Linda Richards

Considered First Trained Nurse

Dr. Valentine Seaman

Dr. Dimock

Dr. Zak.


Early Days:  Physicians Training Schools

Before the start of formal, Nightingale model nurse training schools,  there were hospitals that provided some education for women who wanted to be nurses,. Dr. Valentine Seaman, was elevated to near sainthood after introducing the small pox vaccine to this fledgling nation in the early 1800's. He is also credited with founding the first nursing schools in America
According to Nutting (1907 p 339),

    “the distinction of having made the first attempt to teach nurse
    attendants belongs to the New York Hospital and to Dr. Valentine
    Seaman, one of its medical chiefs, a remarkably broad minded man
    is due the honor of having conceived and initiated the first system
    of instruction to nurses on the American continent. In 1798 he
    organized in the New York Hospital the first regular Training
    School for Nurses, from which other schools have since been
    established and extended their blessings throughout the community."


The next attempt to 'train intelligent nursing personnel' was in Philadelphia. Here the physician was Dr. Joseph Warrington described as " a man of liberal opinions and high ideals" . On March 5, 1839  the Nurse Society was formed in Philadelphia which sought females with" good habits, a
sense of responsibility, and patient dispositions" to go into the homes of patients. The nurses were taught by the physicians in the lying in department of the Philadelphia dispensary Dr. Warrington included lectures and practice on a mannequin. The nurses were supervised in the homes by a lady visitor of the district.  . (Nutting, 1907 pp 162-163 ).

Women's College of Philadelphia

In 1869 , the Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia offered a six month nurse training course  which is considered the first state chartered school for nurses in the United States. The course was under the direction of Dr. Ann Preston. Students  at the Woman’s Hospital training school,. The course  consisted of  women who nursed families and those who planned to nurse as an occupation received the same theoretical instruction: each term they sat side-by-side in the Woman’s Hospital classrooms.


“ The ladies who were in the program to learn how to nurse sick family members paid two dollars for a course of ten lectures on nursing. Those nurses expecting to follow the occupation of nursing paid seventy-five cents a course or ten cents for a single lecture. Apart from sporadic supervision on the wards, there was little that differentiated the instruction of mothers from that of trained nurses. The most important difference, however, lay in the nurses’ expertise in the skilled work of nursing and their ability to look more carefully and closely at their patients bodies developed in the three months they would, much like physicians, apprentice on the hospital’s wards, bartering day-to-day care of patients for experience.”  Source:  https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/nhhc/nursing-through-time/


New England Hospital for Women and Children


Dr. Marie Zakrzewska founded the New England Hospital for Women and Children in 1862. (now the New England Hospital)  The hospital was the first hospital staffed entirely by women physicians, and began the first nursing school in the U.S.

Dr. Susan Dimock was appointed the resident physician of the New England Hospital for Women and Children in 1872 . Dr. Dimock guided the early nurse training program; the first class of pupils was admitted in 1872. with Dr. Dimock taught the pupil nurses and lectured  on surgical
nursing. Linda Richards was the first to complete the twelve month program on October 1 of 1873. Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first trained black nurse in the country, graduated from this school in 1879.

Unfortunately Dr. Dimock died in 1875 while crossing the Atlantic. The New England Hospital for Women and Children was re-named the Dimock Community Health Center.

Source: American Association for the History of Nursing. www.aahn.org

Early History of Nursing Education:  Hospital "Training " Schools