Sunday, November 13, 2011


I love this photo. I think it's from the 1890s, from what I can see of the sleeves and the Gibson girl hair. Can you imagine working in starched whites like this, in the days before air conditioning?

The interesting thing about this photograph is the nurses' caps. Nurse caps are unique to the school from which the nurse graduated, so most likely, not all of these young women graduated together. I suspect that the woman in the darker blouse, third from the left in the back, is at a higher level than the others -- charge nurse, head nurse, or whatever the title was back then -- because of the difference in her uniform. Her cap, of course, would be unique to her school, but her blouse and cuffs are different than the others, too.

Keep in mind that these were the days of nurses in servitude. It wasn't that many years ago when nurses had to rise when a doctor came into the room. Physicians also left their shoes on hospital units, for the nurses to shine. To see these girls so relaxed and seemingly friendly is something unusual to see. Enjoy.


  1. My guess is the photo is from around the 1900s, because the fashion for hair puffed out around the temples came in around 1908 - 1912 or so. That's just my Humble Opinion, of course!

    (And starch is one thing but ... I can't help but notice the nurses seem to be tightly corseted under those uniforms. Imagine bending and lifting in hot weather encased in whalebone stays!)

  2. Thanks for sharing this photo! I am not old enough to have lived in this era, but when I graduated from nurses training we still wore our caps faithfully - along with starched white uniforms, white hose and polished white oxfords. I don't necessarily want to return to those days, but I do miss the professionalism imparted by the uniform!

  3. I have to agree. Although I hated my cap when I was in school, it did set us apart as nurses (or student nurses). Now, there's nothing to set nurses apart from anyone else, except sometimes the color of the scrubs. I miss starched whites. But those oxfords were never particularly comfortable.

  4. PS Actually, the Gibson Girl hairstyle started showing up in 1890 or so. The very slight leg 'o mutton shape of the puff sleeves speaks more to 1890s than after the turn of the century, as does the higher neckline. Can't pinpoint it exactly, but I'm still standing by 1890s, probably mid to late.

  5. Actually, I think that the woman in the darker blouse is probably a student. I am a nurse, and though we don't wear whites anymore, Prior to the 1970s, white was reserved for fully graduated nurses. Students wore color uniforms. If you were a brand new student you had to wear dark stockings as well. It was not until you were a graduate nurse you had the "privilege" of wearing all white.