The History of Nursing in America: The Ultimate Web Guide

by Linda on April 13, 2011

If you want to know about the history of nursing in America, you don’t need to burn gas to travel to an archive. Museums, libraries and other resources have provided plenty of digitized materials to learn about this topic. We also included a few resources outside the U.S., especially when that information pertained to the Red Cross, WWI, WWII or other situations where nurses across the world worked together.

Archives and Collections

  1. ArchivesAlan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions: The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions houses the Johns Hopkins Nursing Historical Collection, the Church Home Nursing Collection and the Dorothea Orem Collection.
  2. Barbara Bates Center for The Study of The History of Nursing: The mission of the Bates Center is to ensure the generation of historical knowledge, scholarship, and research on healthcare and nursing history in the U.S. and across the globe.
  3. Bonnie & Vern Bullough History of Nursing Collection: The History of Nursing Collection was established by Bonnie Bullough, former Dean of the School of Nursing, University at Buffalo, and Vern Bullough, SUNY Distingui shed Professor of History, SUNY College at Buffalo, in 1990.
  4. Canadian Nursing History Collection: This online collection contains artifacts and documents held by the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the Library and Archives Canada.
  5. Center for Nursing History, Ethics, Human Rights and Innovations: This center is located in Johnson Hall of Nursing on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, where you can find easy access to historical papers and artifacts, computers linking to international archival databases, and the assistance of two doctorally-prepared nurse historians.
  6. Clendening History of Medicine Library & Museum: This link for this archive leads to digitalized letters from Florence Nightingale. Many of the 39 Florence Nightingale letters, including two recent purchases, have been acquired through the generosity of the University of Kansas Nurses Alumni Association.
  7. Foundation of New York State Nurses: This foundation’s primary purpose is to increase public knowledge and understanding of nursing, the nursing profession, and the arts and sciences on which human health depends.
  8. Graham Hospital School of Nursing Library: This Illinois Digital Archives project contains 938 items, including photographs, documents, diplomas and more.
  9. Josephine A. Dolan Collection of Nursing History: This is a finding aid composed by Laima Karosas, and focuses on the archives and special collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center in Storrs, Connecticut.
  10. Navy NursesNurses and the U.S. Navy, 1917-1919: This is just one page of a few that the Naval History & Heritage Command offers online.
  11. Nursing History Digitization Project: This site, which was developed by the Mount Saint Vincent University Archives, explores the history of nursing education in Nova Scotia from 1890 to the late twentieth century.
  12. Pioneer Nurses of West Virginia: Pioneer Nurses are those who were nurses in West Virginia from the 1860s through 1935.
  13. The Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry: Established at the University of Virginia in 1991 to support historical scholarship in nursing, this center is dedicated to the preservation and study of nursing history.
  14. The Museum of Nursing History, Inc.: The Museum of Nursing History, Inc. endeavors to recognize the many efforts and achievements of nurses through the preservation and display of nursing artifacts, texts, and correspondence over the years.
  15. The Zwerdling Nursing Archives: This site contains images of postcards about nursing, a rich resource of images from an equally rich past.
  16. UK Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery: UKCHNM) is dedicated to research and education in the history of nursing and midwifery. It is part of the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.
  17. U.S. National Library of Medicine: The manuscript collection includes the American College of Nurse Midwives, National Organization for Public Health Nursing and the National League for Nursing. The Prints and Photographs Collection includes a pictorial documentation of nursing; an index is available and copies may be purchased.
  18. University of Louisville Digital Collections: The online “Nursing School” collection holds, currently, 107 digital photographs and documents.


  1. An 1895 Look At Nursing: An extract from the book, Ambulance Work and Nursing — A Handbook on First Aid to the Injured with a Section on Nursing, Etc.
  2. Civil War NursesCivil War Nurses, “The Angels of the Battlefield”: Approximately two thousand women, North and South, served as volunteer nurses in military hospitals during the American Civil War. Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton were the leaders of a national effort to organize a nursing corps to care for the war’s wounded and sick.
  3. National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses Founded! In August, 2908, Martha Minerva Franklin founded this association, which was successful up until 1951, when the NACGN merged with the ANA (American Nurses Association).
  4. RN: The Past Present and Future of The Nurses’s Uniform: An article with photographs from an exhibit that displays nursing uniforms dating back to the nation’s first hospital founded in Philadelphia in 1751.
  5. Women in the Civil War: Five Nurses from St. Lawrence County: The St. Lawrence County, NY branch of the American Association of University Women wrote this Woman of Courage profile.


  1. American Association for the History of Nursing: founded in 1978 as a historical methodology group, AAHN is a professional organization open to everyone interested in the history of nursing.
  2. American Red Cross Nursing: Today’s Red Cross nurses continue a proud tradition of service that stretches back to the earliest days of the International Red Cross Movement and the founding of the American Red Cross.
  3. Bellevue Alumnae Canter for Nursing History: Endowed by the Bellevue Alumnae in 2000, this Center is dedicated to preserving the magnificent history of Nursing in New York State.
  4. Canadian Association for the History of Nursing: The mission for this organization is to promote interest in the history of nursing and to develop scholarship in the field.
  5. Florence Nightingale Museum: Florence Nightingale led the nurses caring for thousands of soldiers during the Crimean War and helped save the British army from medical disaster.
  6. Frontier Nursing Service, Inc.: Wendover is the historic headquarters of the Frontier Nursing Service. Mrs. Breckinridge’s home, the Big House, is located at Wendover. In 1991, the Big House was recognized as a National Historic Landmark and in 2001, it was certified as a bed and breakfast.
  7. History of Nursing Society: This society operates in conjunction with the Royal College of Nursing, located in London.
  8. Margaret AllemangMargaret M. Allemang Society for the History of Nursing: This is an Ontario organization open to anyone interested in the history of nursing.
  9. National League for Nursing History: A timeline that charts the beginning of this organization in 1893 through 2002 “and beyond.”


  1. Black Nurses in History: This is a bibliography and guide to Web resources about various nurses, including Mamie O. Hale, Jessie Sleet Scales and Mary Seacole.
  2. Country Joe McDonald’s Tribute to Florence Nightingale: This author puts together a different insight into the “Lady with the Lamp” in an entertaining and educational way.
  3. History of Nursing Resources: This guide, offered by the John A. Graziano Memorial Library at Samuel Merritt University, offers books, videos, journal articles and Web sites on the subject of nursing history.
  4. History of Nursing Resources: This resource is offered by the James Madison University Libraries, including Web sites, collections, articles and other resources.
  5. Men in American Nursing History: A resource that offers a history of nursing in general and men in nursing in particular. This resource is cited.
  6. The history of nursing in the British Empire (1906): Internet Archives holds many resources, this free download being just one of those items.
  7. UIC History of Nursing: This page is a guide to selected resources on the History of Nursing available through the Library of the Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago.
  8. Women in Medical Fields: This site includes bibliographies and databases, biographical sources, journals in the field and primary sources via digital collections.

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