Warm Hearts and Caring Hands: South Florida Nursing from Frontier to Metropolis 1880-2000

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Warm Hearts and Caring Hands: South Florida Nursing from Frontier to Metropolis 1880-2000 By Christine Ardalan (Miami, FL: Centennial Press, 2005) (208 pages; $39.95 cloth)

Quite simply, Warm Hearts and Caring Hands: South Florida Nursing from Frontier to Metropolis 1880-2000, by Christine Ardalan, is a beautiful book. Measuring 8 x 11 inches, it is filled with public and private photos on every page, in black and white, as well as informative sidebars in every chapter. Citing her fascination with the fact that in a little over a hundred-year period, the southeast Florida coast grew from a population of barely 200 settlers to a population numbering millions, the author states that the simple question, "Who were the nurses of early Miami?" structured her research. To this end, Ardalan weaves a rich tale of formal and informal nursing practice over the years, as well as placing a special emphasis on the practice of midwifery, including the role of the "granny midwives" in a segregated society. The contributions of Seminole Indian "medicine women" and "herb women" are threaded throughout the book.

Ardalan structures this narrative and descriptive history chronologically by decade. Each decade brings its own colorful challenges. In chapter 1, "The Beckoning Wilderness: 1880s," Seminole birth practices are intermingled with stories of English female nurses and a German midwife who follows her carpenter husband to this new frontier. The emergence of Miami as a sanctuary for victims of tuberculosis in the 1890s, its role as a base for troops during the Spanish-American War, and the subsequent outbreak of an epidemic of yellow fever make for fascinating reading. Ardalan details the early beginnings of what would become Jackson Memorial Hospital, originally a small, one-story isolation facility needed to quarantine those with smallpox and dubbed the "Pest House," under the auspices of the State Health Department and its local officer, Dr. Jackson. In 1909, after the purchase of additional lands by the city's founding fathers, Miami's first free, public hospital was opened. The subsequent emergence of other hospitals and Miami's first nursing school in 1916 is chronicled, as well as the role of Miami nurses in World War I and the 1918 influenza pandemic. The fierce hurricanes of the 1920s are reprised, with a gripping account of the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The progress of South Florida nurses is situated in national events such as the Depression of the 1930s, World War II, and increased educational opportunities for all women and nurses. …