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social sciences

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The "mother of modern nursing," Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), was a major reformer who paved the way for nursing as a professional career choice for women. She became famous for her heroic work as a nurse during the Crimean War and then used that fame to help professionalize nursing and improve nursing education. She may have lived a life of celibacy, but she certainly engaged in romantic friendships with other women.

Lillian D. Wald (1867-1940), a public health nurse and social reformer, founded the famous Henry Street Settlement in New York City. Nursing offered everything that Wald sought, including a strong support network of other women, with whom she shared romantic friendships.

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Naomi Deutsch (1890-1983), a field director of the Henry Street Settlement, is best known for directing the San Francisco Visiting Nurse Association from 1925 to 1934. Like Wald, Deutsch belonged to many of the major women's organizations of her day, including the League of Women Voters and the American Nurses' Association.

Josephine Goldmark (1877-1950), author of the landmark Nursing and Nursing Education in the United States (1923), was also closely associated with Wald and the Henry Street Settlement. Goldmark never married, preferring the company of other politically activist women.

Bertha Wright (1876-1971), known as the West Coast's Lillian Wald and Jane Addams, pioneered public health nursing in California in the first decades of the twentieth century. Her life partner was social worker Mabel Weed. They lived together for over 40 years, adopting and raising three children and providing foster care for many more.

Jane Van de Vrede (1880-1972), a Georgia Red Cross nurse and member of the Atlanta Business and Professional Women's Association, helped establish standards for schools of nursing. She lived with Lillian Bischoff, a fellow nurse and educator.

Anne Austin (1891-1986) worked as a professor of nursing at Western Reserve University in Cleveland and authored many works on the history of nursing. Austin formed a close network with Isabel M. Stewart, another writer; Lura Eldridge, a professor of anatomy and physiology at Western Reserve; and Edell F. Little, with whom she shared a home for many years.

Shirley Carew Titus (1892-1967), one of the most prominent nurses of the mid-twentieth century, served as dean of the school of nursing at Vanderbilt University in the 1930s and executive director of the California State Nurses' Association in the 1940s and 1950s. Until her death, she shared a home in the San Francisco area with a former Vanderbilt colleague, Mary Dodd Giles.

A. Louise Dietrich (1878-1962), who helped professionalize nursing in Texas as a leader of the Texas Graduate Nurses Association, shared a home in El Paso with her very close friend, Homoisella Moss.

Margaret Anthony Tracy (1893-1959) pioneered collegiate education for nurses as dean of the University of California School of Nursing in San Francisco and Berkeley. When she became ill in her final years, many of her professional responsibilities were carried out by Pearl Castile. Tracy and Castile shared a home in Atherton, California until Tracy's death.

Katharine Greenough (1920-1975), a Ph.D. in nursing and a coronary care specialist, served on the board of directors of the American Nurses' Association in the 1960s and 1970s. She shared a home in San Francisco with her good friend Maura Carroll.

Colonel Margrethe Cammermeyer (b. 1942), a Ph.D. in nursing and the Chief Nurse of the Washington State National Guard, was discharged on June 12, 1992 from the U.S. Army Reserves because she acknowledged being a lesbian. The resulting successful legal challenge to her discharge became a cause célèbre.

The Profession's Attitude toward Homosexuality

While nursing education emphasizes that nurses should be nonjudgmental in their attitudes toward patients, research shows that nurses absorb the same and attitudes as society as a whole. Such attitudes affect glbtq colleagues and, perhaps even more damagingly, glbtq patients.

Despite the large number of lesbian women among its leadership, as it developed the profession of nursing adopted the hostile attitude of the medical profession towards lesbians and gay men. In 1969, the American Journal of Nursing, the leading publication in the field of nursing, published a rare article on "Homosexuality." The author, Irving Bieber, was a Freudian psychiatrist who viewed homosexuality as a serious psychiatric and social problem. He regarded gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals as the products of poor parenting who could be cured of homosexual urges.

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