Category Archives: Pioneers of Nursing

Dorothea Dix

By Mindy Longhurst


Dorothea Dix helped to reform the treatment of the mentally ill throughout the United States and in England.

Dorothea Dix grew up in a home with two younger siblings. Her father was a preacher while her mother struggled with depression. Because of this, from a young age, she helped raise her younger siblings. After traveling to England in 1836 at the age of 34, she came back with a desire to help the imprisoned and mentally ill.

When she came back from her trip, she started working at the East Cambridge prison. In the early 1800s, the mentally ill and imprisoned were all in the same imprisonment facility. Dorothea was appalled by the living conditions. These people were starved, abused and mistreated. Dorothea knew that she needed to do something. She felt like she was accountable to help those individuals. After writing a report about the conditions, she presented the report to Massachusetts legislature.

Soon after, changes were made to expand a state mental hospital. Throughout her career, she created similar changes in other states as well as in England.

During the Civil War, she helped the Union as the superintendent of women nurses. She fulfilled this role for two years before being sent home in 1863.

Even after the war, she continued to fight for social reform for the mentally ill. In her lifetime she did everything she could to help the lives of others.

For more information about the life of Dorothea Dix, please visit

Clara Barton

By Mindy Longhurst


Clara Barton was a nurse during the Civil War. Barton showed bravery and determination to help others. She would even go onto the battlefield to try to help the wounded. At these moments, Barton would be close to the frontline action of war. One time a bullet even went through a piece of her clothing and killed the man she was treating! Of this experience Barton later said, “A ball has passed between my body and the right arm which supported him, cutting through his chest from shoulder to shoulder. There was no more to be done for him and I left him to his rest. I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat?”

She dearly cared for these soldiers. She even created the Bureau of Records of Missing Men of the Armies of the United States. Whenever possible, she wrote down information about the soldiers. She would then try and contact this person’s loved ones to let them know of the soldier’s medical condition.

After her difficult experience of helping those who fought in the Civil War, she learned about the Red Cross in Switzerland. She knew that this was helping people and realized that this was needed in the United States. She rallied for this to be implemented in the United States and with some lobbying the American Red Cross was established with Barton at the head.

Barton worked throughout her life to try to help others who were in need. She is a great example of sacrifice, diligence and determination.

For more information about Clara Barton, please visit