Introduction of Woman Nurses and Doctors in 19th century Modern medicine
Women as physicians
It was very difficult for women to become doctors in any field before the 1970s. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910) became the first woman to formally study and practice medicine in the United States. She was a leader in women’s medical education. While Blackwell viewed medicine as a means for social and moral reform, her student Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842–1906) focused on curing disease. At a deeper level of disagreement, Blackwell felt that women would succeed in medicine because of their humane female values, but Jacobi believed that women should participate as the equals of men in all medical specialties using identical methods, values and insights. In the Soviet Union although the majority of medical doctors were women, they were paid less than the mostly male factory workers.
Women as nurses
Florence Nightingale triggered the professionalization of nursing.
Women had always served in ancillary roles, and as midwives and healers. The professionalization of medicine forced them increasingly to the sidelines. As hospitals multiplied they relied in Europe on orders of Roman Catholic nun-nurses, and German Protestant and Anglican deaconesses in the early 19th century. They were trained in traditional methods of physical care that involved little knowledge of medicine. The breakthrough to professionalization based on knowledge of advanced medicine was led by Florence Nightingale in England. She resolved to provide more advanced training than she saw on the Continent. Britain’s male doctors preferred the old system, but Nightingale won out and her Nightingale Training School opened in 1860 and became a model. The Nightingale solution depended on the patronage of upper class women, and they proved eager to serve. Royalty became involved. In 1902 the wife of the British king took control of the nursing unit of the British army, became its president, and renamed it after herself as the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, when she died the next queen became president.
In the United States, upper middle class women who already supported hospitals promoted nursing. The new profession proved highly attractive to women of all backgrounds, and schools of nursing opened in the late 19th century. They soon a function of large hospitals, where they provided a steady stream of low-paid idealistic workers. The International Red Cross began operations in numerous countries in the late 19th century, promoting nursing as an ideal profession for middle class women.
The Nightingale model was widely copied. Linda Richards (1841 – 1930) studied in London and became the first professionally trained American nurse. She established nursing training programs in the United States and Japan, and created the first system for keeping individual medical records for hospitalized patients. The Russian Orthodox Church sponsored seven orders of nursing sisters in the late 19th century. They ran hospitals, clinics, almshouses, pharmacies, and shelters as well as training schools for nurses. In the Soviet era (1917–1991), with the aristocratic sponsors gone, nursing became a low-prestige occupation based in poorly maintained hospitals.
Woman : Renaissance to Early Modern period 16th-18th century
Catholic women played large roles in health and healing in medieval and early modern Europe. A life as a nun was a prestigious role. Wealthy families provided dowries for their daughters, and these funded the convents, while the nuns provided free nursing care for the poor.
The Catholic elites provided hospital services because of their theology of salvation that good works were the route to heaven. The Protestant reformers rejected the notion that rich men could gain God’s grace through good works, and thereby escape purgatory, by providing cash endowments to charitable institutions. They also rejected the Catholic idea that the poor patients earned grace and salvation through their suffering. Protestants generally closed all the convents and most of the hospitals, sending women home to become housewives, often against their will. On the other hand, local officials recognized the public value of hospitals, and some were continued in Protestant lands, but without monks or nuns and in the control of local governments.
In London, the crown allowed two hospitals to continue their charitable work, under nonreligious control of city officials. The convents were all shut down but Harkness finds that women, some of them former nuns, were part of a new system that delivered essential medical services to people outside their family. They were employed by parishes and hospitals, as well as by private families, and provided nursing care as well as some medical, pharmaceutical, and surgical services.
Meanwhile, in Catholic lands such as France, rich families continued to fund convents and monasteries, and enrolled their daughters as nuns who provided free health services to the poor. Nursing was a religious role for the nurse, and there was little call for science.