10 Famous Nurses In The History Of Nursing

Added by Edan Barak on Feb 7, 2019
Edith Cavell

Nursing has a long and storied history, although specialized nursing as we know it today has only been around for 150 years or so. Prior to that, nursing was generally something done by midwives and mothers, with little to no specialized training. Over those 150 years, a number of nurses have made a name for themselves, from changing the profession itself, to changing our perception of what a nurse is or does, to putting a public face on the profession. Here are ten famous nurses that helped to change and develop the profession.

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Margaret Sanger

A visiting nurse and mother of three, Sanger was familiar with the issues that came with frequent childbirth, and she sought a way to eliminate unwanted pregnancy. She advocated the practice of birth control, a controversial topic at the time that led to her having to leave the country, returning later to promote birth control only to endure prosecution and arrests, with her entire staff being arrested after she opened a clinic. She continued to push on, eventually developing the American Birth Control League, the precursor to Planned Parenthood. She fought for the legalization of birth control and abortion reform, and is considered the founder of the modern birth control method.


Mary Breckinridge

Even as modern nursing developed, it was not reaching into the poor, rural areas of the country. Mary Breckinridge came from the opposite side of the spectrum, born into an influential, urban household and enjoying a privileged childhood. However, after losing both of her children in childhood, she moved to become a registered nurse, serving as a nurse in World War I. Coming back from the war, she decided to focus her effort in rural Kentucky, establishing the Frontier Nurse Service to bring maternal and neonatal care to poor, rural areas.

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