Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Independence Day, Nurses, on this fabulous fourth of July!

The character of our nation and that of the nursing profession are so similar that through out our history they’ve been intertwined. Try these traits on for size and see if you agree: Nurturing, caring, patriotic, independence-loving, tolerant, and humanitarian.

I was reminded of the patriotic role of the nurse by Melodie Chenevert, herself a nurse for 50 years and a collector of nursing memorabilia, and also founder-owner of the Lost Art of Nursing Museum in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Melodie displays some sensational artwork that show just how elevated nurses became during the first World War, when Red Cross nurses were romanticized as the heroic feminine ideal of American womanhood.

That trend continued during World War II, when the US government swung into full gear to recruit young woman into the nursing corps. The need for nurses was great and the supply short, so recruitment posters marketed military service as a way to aid the war effort. The fact that service in the Army, Navy, or Nurse Cadet Corp. served as a bold call to adventure and offered a free vocational education didn’t hurt, either.

Leading artists and illustrators, songwriters and poets all heralded the noble nurse who fulfilled her duty to country through military service. Some famous artists who received commissions to depict the nurturing nurse in battle: Norman Rockwell, Dana Gibson (creator the lauded Gibson Girl) and N.C. Wyeth.

Before the age of celebrity and before the Kardashians, nurses captured the public’s imagination. They served as magazine cover girls and advice columnists and product endorsers and pitch women. Just as today, nurses were trustworthy figures and so their “seal of approval” actually meant something to consumers.

So, as we mark our nation’s birthday, light up the candles…or fireworks…and let’s celebrate!

Jebra Turner
Jebra Turner

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