Monday, March 26, 2012

Celebrating Women's History Month: Jane Delano

Written by Catherine Carlton l Volunteer Contributor

The image of the Red Cross nurse has been part of our Red Cross brand, imagery and history for more than 100 years. That image, along with the inclusion of nurses considered as medical professionals, is with us today thanks to Jane Delano.

As part of Women's History Month, we are celebrating Jane (1862 - 1919) who founded the American Red Cross Nursing Service.

After a brief period of teaching, Delano enrolled in the Bellevue Training School for Nurses and graduated in 1886. Delano's first opportunity to perform public service nursing came in 1888, when she served as superintendent of a Jacksonville, Florida hospital treating victims of a yellow fever epidemic. Her superior executive and administrative skills quickly became evident, as she developed innovative nursing procedures for the patients under her care. Jacksonville is also where she realized the great need for providing health education and social services to rural communities.
From there Jane's career with the Red Cross continued to expand: During the Spanish-American War in 1898, she began her association with the American Red Cross by becoming a member of the New York Chapter where she served as the secretary for the enrollment of nurses. She worked hard to dignify the position of nurses in the medical community. Up to that time, nurses were not recognized as full members of the medical profession.

A woman of incredible energy, Delano served as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps from 1909-1912 and chairman of the new National Committee on Red Cross Nursing Service and created the plan for the first volunteer nursing unit of the American Red Cross. She also served as president of the American Nurses' Association and chairman of the board of directors of the American Journal of Nursing. In 1912, Delano resigned from the Army Nurse Corps to volunteer full time with the Red Cross, focusing on recruiting more nurses.
Henry P. Davison, a leader of the American Red Cross during World War I, praised the contributions Jane Delano made to the nursing profession at the time of her death: "The value of what she did for our cause can never be measured. Appreciation of her individual services will grow as the knowledge of the work done by nurses during the world war becomes better known to the world. She was beloved by all who knew her. I am sure it can be said of Miss Delano that her thought from beginning to end was never for herself, but for the service of humanity."

To learn more about Red Cross nursing, visit

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