Forging Professional Public Health Nursing in a Southern State: Florida's Public Health Nurses, 1889 to 1934

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Kirsten E. Wood

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Darden A. Pyron

Third Advisor's Name

Sherry Johnson

Fourth Advisor's Name

Patricia L. Price


professional nursing, public health, Florida

Date of Defense



From 1889 to 1934, Florida’s nurses belonging to a new group of professional women ushered in a pioneering phase of public health nursing in Florida. During this era, the nurses’ ability to confront health and professional issues varied a great deal but in quiet and forceful ways they tackled cultural and environmental problems to assist people who were ill or help prevent people from becoming ill. This dissertation places the development of professional public health nursing in its social context by uncovering the relationships public health nurses formed with clubwomen, the medical profession, city leaders, midwives, and others.

In 1888, there were few graduate nurses in the state, no state board of health and no organized nursing service to respond to Jacksonville’s great yellow fever epidemic. By 1934, national and state leaders of public health nursing had built up the profession to become an essential part of the State Board of Health’s service to the community. Between these milestones, in the era of white supremacy and Jim Crow, public health nurses combined their professional training with a pioneer spirit of innovation and risk-taking. In the predominately rural state, the public health nurses’ resolve to overcome environmental hazards and cultural obstacles stands out as they attempted to reach those who were unserved or underserved by modern medicine.



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