Parallel Developments: Women’s Rights and the Professional Identity of Nurses

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

When women marched in the street to gain the right to vote, nurses marched with them. It’s no coincidence that nursing’s push for a professional identity occurred parallel to the women’s rights movement in the 19th and 20th centuries. As women were expanding their interests beyond the home and seeking a voice in the greater society, so too were nurses looking to establish their own professional identity and practice.

AJN‘s archives are replete with articles and letters from nurses who were on both sides of the suffrage question and other related issues affecting women and the nursing profession. During Women’s History Month, we will post several articles from our 115 years of archives. We hope you enjoy them and realize the many contributions of those nurses who came before us.

Below is an excerpt from one heartfelt letter drawing a connection between the women’s suffrage movement and nursing’s work in the public health sphere. It was published in the January 1909 edition of AJN (to read the entire letter, click here, and then click the link to the PDF version in the upper-right corner of the page):


…the sentence and the letter go on from there. It’s eloquent and to the point, even if some of the morality-tinged language will seem out of date. You can’t understand what’s happening today without looking to the past. Give it a read.—Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief




2016-11-21T13:01:24+00:00 March 7th, 2016|Nursing, nursing history|0 Comments
Editor-in-chief, AJN

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.

%d bloggers like this: