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Nursing Civil Rights

Nursing Civil Rights: Gender and Race in the Army Nurse Corps

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Nursing Civil Rights
    Book Description:

    In Nursing Civil Rights, Charissa J. Threat investigates the parallel battles against occupational segregation by African American women and white men in the U.S. Army. As Threat reveals, both groups viewed their circumstances with the Army Nurse Corps as a civil rights matter. Each conducted separate integration campaigns to end the discrimination they suffered. Yet their stories defy the narrative that civil rights struggles inevitably arced toward social justice. Threat tells how progressive elements in the campaigns did indeed break down barriers in both military and civilian nursing. At the same time, she follows conservative threads to portray how some of the women who succeeded as agents of change became defenders of exclusionary practices when men sought military nursing careers. The ironic result was a struggle that simultaneously confronted and reaffirmed the social hierarchies that nurtured discrimination.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09724-9
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    In the spring of 2000, the third African American female chief of the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was informed that the first male nurse had been nominated as her replacement. In response, Brigadier General Bettye H. Simmons wrote, “The diversity of our members has made us smarter as an organization and stronger as a Corps.”¹ Her comments to active-duty and retired nurses celebrated this promotion as a sign of the strength and progressiveness of the Army Nurse Corps. Nearly one hundred years after its founding, the ANC could claim a race and gender diversity between its membership and leadership that...

  6. 1 The Politics of Intimate Care: Gender, Race, and Nursing Work
    (pp. 10-24)

    The nascent reality of nurses as trained professionals found an audience amid the evolution of the medical profession during the 1850s in Europe and the United States. As the field of medicine became more sophisticated and developed—focusing on preventative care and not just healing—so, too, did ideas about patient care and who had the authority to provide and control that care. With “professionalization,” medical authority became gendered. Society viewed men as having both the intellectual and physical capabilities necessary for the medical profession.¹ In contrast, as the fairer sex, women were seen as fragile, weak, and lacking in...

  7. 2 “The Negro Nurse—A Citizen Fighting for Democracy”: African Americans and the Army Nurse Corps
    (pp. 25-52)

    Even as the United States entered World War II to protect freedom and democracy, discrimination against its racial minorities continued as the nation’s greatest dilemma. Rather than take the initiative to integrate the United States military, the War Department continued to privilege Jim Crow policies in the nation’s fighting force. African American women, like the servicemen’s wives quoted above, insisted that these policies harmed the cause to which the United States was dedicated.¹ The policies also harmed American soldiers by limiting the nurses accepted for service and by restricting where some nurses—particularly African American female nurses—served. By early...

  8. 3 Nurse or Soldier? White Male Nurses and World War II
    (pp. 53-78)

    With these lines, Second Lieutenant Edith Aynes closed her article on army nursing with the intent of encouraging nurses to remember their obligations and responsibilities and of making a clear delineation between the roles of men and women, even before U.S. involvement in World War II. This delineation defined soldiering and nursing in gendered terms, using sex difference to assign individuals to each occupation. Gender conventions and their articulation in the civilian nursing profession during the mid-twentieth century supported this prescription regarding the types of jobs available to nurses. The traditional assumption that soldiers were men and nurses were women...

  9. 4 An American Challenge: Defense, Democracy, and Civil Rights after World War II
    (pp. 79-106)

    In the ten years following World War II, professional nursing viewed its responsibilities to the health and welfare of the nation as being bound to the global defense of democracy. Nursing became part of the “frontline” in maintaining America’s strength against the disease of communism. To maintain this “frontline” successfully, nursing leaders looked inward and used perceived Cold War threats to mobilize and improve the profession for national security. Civilian nursing groups, including the American Nurses’ Association (ANA) and the National Organization of Public Health Nursing (NOPHN), set about resolving what they framed as two of the greatest threats to...

  10. 5 The Quality of a Person: Race and Gender Roles Re-Imagined?
    (pp. 107-128)

    With the acceptance of male nurses in 1955, the Army Nurse Corps found itself in the unusual position of appearing to be a vanguard in the fight for an even greater conception of civil rights. Over the next ten years the ANC struggled with the far-reaching ramifications of this decision on everything from day-to-day operations, wages, and benefits, to a fundamental redefinition of the role of nursing within the army. Throughout the period between the mid-1950s and the late 1960s, the ANC and its members simultaneously endorsed and impeded attempts to restructure race and gender roles and standards while endeavoring...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 129-132)

    Forty years after asking the Red Cross and the army to change their policies on the acceptance of male nurses, men had achieved full military standing and recognition in the ANC. Along with changes to the acceptance of female nurses beginning in 1964—the acceptance of married women, for example—the ANC could, in 1966, claim to be a race-and sex-inclusive organization. Yet many of these changes were pragmatic rather than politically motivated on the part of the ANC. This story reveals an organization bound reluctantly yet intimately to social-justice activism, shaped by war and military preparedness and hindered by...

  12. APPENDIX A. Facts about Negro Nurses and the War
    (pp. 133-134)
  13. APPENDIX B. Male Nurse Population, 1943
    (pp. 135-136)
  14. APPENDIX C. African American Nurse Population, 1940
    (pp. 137-138)
  15. APPENDIX D. Male and African American Nurse Population, 1950
    (pp. 139-140)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 141-184)
  17. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 185-190)
  18. Index
    (pp. 191-198)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-204)