May 6th is National Nurses Day! The observance, which kicks off National Nurses Week, was timed to coincide with the May 12th birthdate of Florence Nightingale (1820 -1910).
National Nurses Week was the brainchild of Dorothy Sutherland, an official in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare office. In 1953, Sutherland proposed National Nurses Week to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower passed on the idea, but supporters began marking the observance on their own in 1954, with assistance from Representative Frances P. Bolton, who unsuccessfully sponsored a bill that would have establishing a National Nurses Week that year.
The observance finally recieved an official seal of approval in 1974, when President Richard Nixon issued a proclamation declaring the week ending on May 12 as National Nurse Week. Since then, May 6 was declared Nurses' Day by New Jersey Governor Brendon Byrne in 1978. The American Nurses Association joined with supporters in Congress to affirm and encourage a joint resolution designating May 6 as "National Recognition Day for Nurses" in 1982, which became a proclamation signed by President Ronald Reagan later that year, and the American Nurses Association has continued to support and expand recognition efforts to this date.
We're doing our part to celebrate nurses today by sharing this photograph of a team of nurses and their patients in the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, South Philadelphia Works’ machine shop dispensary, captured on January 8th, 1919 by Westinghouse’s staff photographer, Charles Yessel.
To see more of the Hagley Library’s collection of Westinghouse Electric Corporation Steam Division photographs (Accession 1969.170), click here to visit its page in our Digital Archive.