Say Little, Do Much: Nurses, Nuns, and Hospitals in the Nineteenth Century

Say Little, Do Much: Nurses, Nuns, and Hospitals in the Nineteenth Century

Say Little, Do Much: Nurses, Nuns, and Hospitals in the Nineteenth Century

Say Little, Do Much: Nurses, Nuns, and Hospitals in the Nineteenth Century

Synopsis

Nearly a half century before Florence Nightingale became a legendary figure for her pioneering work in the nursing trade, nursing nuns made significant but little-known accomplishments in the field. In fact, in the nineteenth century, more than thirty-five percent of American hospitals were created and run by women with religious vocations. In Say Little, Do Much, Sioban Nelson casts light upon the work of the nineteenth century women's religious communities. It was they who organized and administered home, hospital, epidemic, and military nursing in America as well as Britain and Australia. According to Nelson, the popular view that nursing invented itself in the second half of the nineteenth century is historically inaccurate and dismissive of the major advances in the care of the sick as a serious and skilled activity, an activity that originated in seventeenth-century France with Vincent de Paul's Daughters of Charity. In this comparative, contextual, and critical work, Nelson demonstrates how modern nursing developed from the complex interplay of the Catholic emancipation in Britain and Ireland, the resurgence of the Irish Church, the Irish diaspora, and mass migrations of the German, Italian, and Polish Catholic communities to the previously Protestant strongholds of North America and mainland Britain. In particular, Nelson follows the nursing Daughters of Charity through the Revolution and the Second Empire, documenting the relationship that developed between the French nursing orders and the Irish Catholic Church during this period. This relationship, she argues, was to have major significance for the development of nursing in the English-speaking world. Placing theevolution of the nursing field in the context of a complex array of religious and social conflicts, Say Little, Do Much appropriately counters the tendency of historians to ignore the place of religious institutions in American social history.
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