Celebrating Influential Women in Healthcare History for Women's History Month

Celebrating Influential Women in Healthcare History for Women's History Month

March is Women's History Month and to celebrate, we're honoring important women in healthcare history. There are many amazing nurses, doctors, and others who have made a world of difference in healthcare, paving the way for women today. We wanted to show our appreciation and highlight ten of these influential women.


Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Florence Nightingale, also known as “The Lady With the Lamp,” became a nurse in 1851. She is one of the most famous nurses in history and is widely known for her efforts in reforming healthcare and for her help in healing British soldiers during the Crimean war. Due to the poor conditions and treatment that soldiers received, Nightingale took action by tending to the soldiers and cleaning up the hospitals. She established and funded the St. Thomas Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses which opened in 1860.


Mary Seacole (1805-1881)
While Florence Nightingale was working to help soldiers in the Crimean War, Mary Seacole was another heroic nurse on the frontlines. Given the name “Mother Seacole” by the wounded soldiers she tended to on the battlefield, Mary Seacole was a British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman. During the Crimean War, Seacole set up the “British Hotel” to care for sick and recovering soldiers. In 1853, she went to Panama where she treated people suffering from cholera and yellow fever.


Clarissa Barton (1821-1912)
Clarissa Barton, who went by the name Clara Barton, was a nurse during the Civil War. She is known for serving and providing nursing care and supplies to soldiers on 16 battlefields in her time, earning her the name of America's "Angel of the Battlefield." In 1881, Barton founded the American Red Cross. She led the organization for 23 years until she retired in 1904.


Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)
While many African Americans served as nurses before her, Mary Mahoney was the first African American nurse to earn a professional nursing license in the U.S. In 1879, Mahoney was one of four from a class of 42 students to graduate from the New England Hospital for Women and Children's nursing program. Paving the way and increasing access to nursing education for other African American nurses, Mahoney co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) in 1908.


Ildaura Murillo-Rohde (1920-2010)
After feeling that the American Nurses Association wasn't meeting the needs of Hispanic nurses, Ildaura Murillo-Rohde played a big role in creating the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) in 1975. Murillo-Rohde helped Hispanic nurses secure their education and serve their communities. She also served as faculty, professor, and dean of nursing at SUNY's School of Nursing and received a fellowship from the American Academy of Nursing.


Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)
Virginia Apgar is a doctor who dedicated much of her career to working on anesthesia and childbirth. In 1952, she created the Apgar Score, which is a quick test to evaluate the health of newborns after birth. Originally trained to be an anesthesiologist, in 1949 Dr. Apgar became one of the first female professors at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Instead of returning to medicine, after Apgar received her Master's degree in Public health she committed to advocating for the prevention of birth defects through public education and fundraising for research.


Estelle Massey Osbourne (1901-1981)
Estelle Massey Osbourne was a nurse who was largely known for her efforts in protecting and fighting to eliminate racial prejudices faced by Black and African American nurses. When Estelle Osbourne entered nursing school in St. Louis, only 14 of 1,300 American nursing schools were open to Black students. In 1931, Osbourne would go on to graduate from Columbia University where she became the first Black nurse in history to earn a Master’s degree. After graduating, Osbourne helped bring better health education and service to rural Black communities in the south. From 1934 to 1939, Osbourne was president of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses and in 1946, she became the first black faculty member of New York University. Osbourne continued to fight for racial equality in nursing and became a member of the American Nurses Association (ANA) Board of Directors and a delegate to the International Council of Nurses.


Dorothea Dix (1802-1887)
Dorothea Dix was an activist who drastically changed the medical field. She spent the majority of her career advocating for mental health care and indigenous people. In 1861 when the Civil War broke out, Dix became the superintendent of female nurses for the Union Army and oversaw a staff of 6,000 hospital nurses. Through her effort, Dix helped create dozens of mental health institutions across the United States and in Europe. As she campaigned for the rights of the mentally ill, Dix’s work changed people's perceptions of these populations forever.


Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895)
Starting her career out as a nurse, in 1864 Rebecca Lee Crumpler became one of the first African American women to earn an M.D. degree. Much of her work is credited with providing medical care for freed slaves. In 1883, Dr. Crumpler produced one of the first medical publications by an African American called 'Book of Medical Discourses'.


Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
When it came to reproductive rights, there was no one more vocal than Margaret Sanger. She founded the birth control movement in America and became an advocate for women’s health throughout her lifetime. Despite disapproval from the authorities, Sanger opened a birth control clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. In 1923, She founded the American Birth Control League, which eventually became the Planned Parenthood Foundation in 1942. Sanger also helped with the development of the first birth control pill.


Many of these incredible women shined during war situations. They stepped up and showed leadership to care for people but also drove great change that still impacts us now. We are extremely proud to serve the many brave people working in the healthcare industry today.