In 1834, Sarah Josepha Hale, the great American editor and champion of female education, published an article in her magazine calling for the nursing profession—then the domain of men—to be opened to women. While all women ought to be educated in “the important art of attending the sick,” it said, nursing was especially suitable employment for widows, spinsters and other women who were forced by circumstances to earn a living.
It wasn’t until the Civil War that nursing became an organized profession in America. Before then, patients were cared for mostly at home, with hospitals reserved for the indigent and mentally ill. But with the outbreak of war came an urgent need for hospitals to shelter wounded soldiers and nurses to care for them. Since the men were fighting, women were recruited. Many women answered the call, including Clara Barton and Louisa May Alcott.
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