Why Women’s History Month is a Celebration of Nursing
Women’s history month is a time of celebration. This March, we take the opportunity to remember the female trailblazers and trendsetters who fought to give girls equal rights and opportunities for success.
“What does any of this have to do with nursing in particular,” you may be asking yourself. More so than many other professions, the history of women is the history of nursing.
If you tell one without the other, you are not telling the complete story.
Nursing is a girl’s job
This is no offense to the many excellent male nurses– it is merely a statement of fact.
Per Zippia, women currently account for 86% of all nurses in America. Since 2017, the percentage has never dropped below that number.
Women are the lifeblood of nursing, and they have been for a long time. Without these special and selfless individuals, the nursing profession as we know it would look a lot different.
Celebrating the trailblazers
It was not always the case, however. There were points in American history when women were not legally allowed to practice as healthcare providers.
This is why Women’s History Month is so important to the nursing profession. It allows us to remember the individuals who sacrificed so much for future generations of female nurses.
There is Mary Elizabeth Mahoney (1845–1926), a trailblazer in numerous regards. As the first African American female nurse to be registered, Mahoney battled through adversity and racism to achieve her dreams.
Later on, she established the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, which aimed to combat racial discrimination in nursing and empower colored nurses to pursue the profession.
Mary Breckenridge (1881–1965) paved the way for the nurse-midwives of the present. With no nurse midwife courses in America, she got certified in England and brought her expertise to rural Kentucky.
After founding the Kentucky Committee for Mothers and Babies, she traveled the countryside to provide childbirth care and general healthcare services to numerous households. As childbirth mortality rates dropped under her watch, Breckenridge proved to America just how valuable pre and post-natal care truly was.
Then there is shy Clara Barton (1821–1912), who was braver than everyone when it mattered the most. In the heat of the Civil War, Barton braved the frontlines to provide healthcare to battered soldiers.
She also played a big role in establishing the American branch of the Red Cross. It was her idea to provide care to those affected by natural disasters, on top of the victims of war.
All this is just scratching the surface when it comes to exceptional female nurses in history. We were all taught about Florence Nightingale in high school, but Women’s History Month allows us to commemorate some figures that may slip through the cracks, but are no less important.
Despite dominating the profession, women still face discrimination in healthcare. Gender pay gaps, harassment from men in power, and harmful stereotypes persist, to this day.
Celebrating Women’s History Month does not make this all disappear. By earnestly partaking in it, however, nurses have the opportunity to send a strong message:
“Nursing was built by women. Nursing is practiced by women. These negative attitudes will not be tolerated.”