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 Cultural History of the Nurse’s Uniform
A Cultural History of the Nurse’s Uniform

This first and only in-depth analysis of the attire worn by the largest workforce in the health care system explores the role of the nurse’s uniform in creating nursing identity for over a hundred years.


The introduction of the nurse’s uniform in the late nineteenth century was par t of a strategy to legitimize North America’s first nursing schools. At first varied and experimental in design, by the early twentieth century the uniform was drawing on elements of fashionable, scientific, militar y and ecclesiastical wear, and had standardized into a blue or pink dress worn with stiffly starched white cap, bib and apron. This remarkable outfit lasted until the 1970s, when educational and societal changes brought about its demise, and practical scrubs became the most common nursing apparel. Seen through the lens of age, gender, class and race, this book shows how the uniform was an active participant in the changing culture of nursing work and thought.


Richly illustrated with images of actual garments and over 150 compelling period photographs, car toons and drawings, the book’s ten chapters explore the uniform within the contexts of hospital, community, nursing school and residence. A Cultural Histor y of the Nurse’s Uniform will appeal to nurses, historians and scholars of dress.


“Uniforms are rich in meaning, and Christina Bates does an excellent job of teasing out those meanings. Wisely, she has concentrated on the evidence of actual artifacts, as well as a wide variety of visual and written sources. This spirited and scholarly book makes a significant contribution to the study of dress and society. “
— Jane Farrell-Beck, Professor Emerita, Iowa State University


“This is a very important book that places the nurse’s uniform in the cultural context of school, residence and practice settings. The role of the uniform in nurses’ identity is an aspect of nursing that has never before been fully considered. A must-read for historians of nursing. A Cultural History of the Nurse’s Uniform will bring back memories for nurses who wore the uniform, and will provide insight to those nurses who came after. “
—  Dr. Meryn Stuart, retired Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Director of the AMS Nursing History Research Unit, University of Ottawa

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