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  • Anna Caroline Maxwell: The American Florence Nightingale

    Wednesday, June 10, 2020

    2020 has been named the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization. To celebrate, every month we're highlighting a nurse who has helped change the world.

    Anna Caroline Maxwell, born in Bristol, New York in 1851, came to be known as the “American Florence Nightingale.” She attended the Boston City Hospital Training School for Nurses, graduating in 1880. That same year, she was hired by Montreal General Hospital to implement a nurse training program. A year later, she returned to Boston to serve as the superintendent for the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Training School for Nurses.

    Maxwell continued to bounce from position to position, becoming the director of nursing at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York in 1889. After a year, she moved to the Presbyterian Hospital of New York to work as the superintendent of nursing. In 1892, when Presbyterian established a nursing school, she because its first director. Maxwell would remain at Presbyterian, which would later become the Columbia University School of Nursing, until 1921.

    During this time, Maxwell played an integral part in training nurses serving in the Spanish-American War. She trained and organized 160 nurses, and helped improve conditions at Fort Thomas in Chickamauga, Georgia. Maxwell also trained military nurses during World War I, and visited hospitals on the front lines in Europe.

    In part because of Maxwell’s lobbying, the Army Nurse Corps was established in 1901. When nurses were awarded military rank in 1920, Maxwell helped design the US Army nurses uniforms. Maxwell was the first woman buried at Arlington National Cemetery after her death in 1929, and was buried with full military honors.


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