Mapping Care Project: The History of Black Nurses in Chicago

Nursing in the Armed Forces

Since its beginnings, the nursing profession has been informed by and advanced through major conflicts including wars and natural disasters. Professional nursing in Britain was born out of the Crimean War, and it is no surprise that formal nurse training programs began in the United States after the Civil War. However, nursing in military service was restricted to white women from the beginnings of the nursing profession through most of WWII. For example, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross after serving as a nurse in wars in the U.S. and Europe.1 Yet for many decades the U.S. military and the American Red Cross refused to accept the service of Black nurses, except during times of great crisis and nursing shortages, when military leader had run out of white options. The demands of war have often forced institutions to break with established social norms, including racism. Black communities and organizations, particularly the National Association for Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) also played an important role in pushing the military and the Red Cross to change their policies. From the start of the modern nursing field until today, Black nurses have sought to provide nursing care in the military, finding unique opportunities and challenges in their service in the armed forces.

Contents of this path:

This page references: