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Who gets your vote for the Father of Nursing?Issue Date: April 2011 Vol. 6 No. 4Author: William T. Campbell, EdD, RN 11 CommentsAsk any nurse or nursing student “Who’s the mother of nursing?” and you’ll get a quick, confident answer—Florence Nightingale. Her achievements are well-known: nurse in the Crimean War, nursing administrator, researcher, statistician, political activist, consultant, author, and instructor. The improvements she made in nursing care and the resulting reduction in deaths among British soldiers in the Crimean War were legendary.Supported by her research and statistics, along with the publicity they garnered in newspapers, Nightingale’s work led to the reform of military healthcare. Her 1860 book Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Notbecame an undisputed guide for nursing care. In England, 1,500 copies were sold in the first month after publication; the next year, two more editions were published in America. Three years later, in her book Notes on Hospitals(1863), Nightingale suggested ways to improve hospital construction and operation. She may well have started the evidence-based practice movement decades before that term was coined. Her dedication to nursing and leadership for nursing students are clear in Florence Nightingale to Her Nurses(1914), a compilation of her addresses to graduate nurses from 1872 to 1900 at the graduation ceremonies of the Nightingale School of St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. Through her many publications and her pioneer nursing school at this hospital, she disseminated her vast knowledge of nursing and health care throughout the world to her “children” (her nurses), earning her the title of the Mother of Nursing.A father to pair with the motherBut “mother” is only half of the parental pair. Who’s the father of nursing? Few men have become famous in nursing. Can you name even one? While several influential and noteworthy male nurses of the modern era may come to mind, 19th-century history offers none. Nightingale birthed nursing around the late 1850s (Crimean War), early 1860s (American Civil War), and early 1870s (beginning of formal nursing schools in America). So to put things on an equal footing, the Father of Nursing should be more or less her contemporary.Gender in health careTo find suitable candidates for the Father of Nursing, one must understand the history of gender in health care. In the 1860s, healthcare roles were sharply divided by gender. During the Civil War (1861 to 1865), most such roles related to the war. Diseases and wounds associated with war constituted most of the era’s health care, and nursing began to evolve as a profession during this period.The nurse was the onlyhealthcare role held by women. In each family, the mother or grandmother served as the nurse. Nuns (in religious hospitals) or prisoners (in community hospitals) served as nurses for those without family caregivers.But while women filled the role of healthcare provider as untrained nurses in the home or community, they were in the minority in military settings. At the start of the Civil War, all