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Angels Alfresco: 1910

Washington, D.C., circa 1910. "Portrait of nurses on lawn." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1910. "Portrait of nurses on lawn." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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For reference. Location is Garfield Hospital.

Nurses are seated in front of Garfield Hospital main building with entrance on Florida Ave. NW between 10th and 11th Streets.

Comfortable shoes

I'm wearing a pair of shoes almost identical to those right now, and they're actually very comfortable and give a lot of support. I shudder to think of the grass stains on those snowy white aprons. I hope somebody gave the laundress a tip that day.


Hey, Gene Hackman's granny is in that pic!

As for the rest, I sure hope morphine was in plentiful supply for the patients.

Rescue mission

I'm going back in time to save the poor thing in the back row far right. I bet the one in front of her is packing a meat cleaver.

Oh Dear

The last one on the right in front looks like Dennis Quaid

Ready, set, go!

"Okay, everybody look in a different direction!" (at least two are looking in two different directions at the same time).

Can you hear me know?

There is a woman on the balcony that looks as if she is on her cell phone.

Photographer a relative

The photographer George Harris was married to my father's first cousin, and thus was my first cousin once removed by marriage. He was jolly story-telling devoted Rotarian, born in Dowlas, Wales in 1872, and was my parent's favorite house guest. He was also the photographer of 5 presidents, not retiring until Truman was in office, although he lived until 1964. His tales of Washington politics were legendary in my family, and sadly I was not home for most of his visits, thus missing some juicy political tales.

My grandmother had stories...

She was in nurse's training (Pittsburgh Passavant Hospital) in the '20s and told us some of her stories about that experience (at least one that I probably can't post :-) The comments about nurses training being something akin to entering the military are right on the mark.

The nice one at the back

The nice one at the back (right side) looks positively terrified. I understand perfectly. I am too.

Too many matrons

Perhaps these young nurses look so herded and pressed because they've just been subjected to the humiliations of a graduation luncheon with the pack of grand socialites looking down from the verandah in the background. I worked in not-for-profit for many years (arts, not medicine), and the staff in photos taken at trustee events usually had the same slightly hunted expressions. As for their glorious and impractical uniforms, the earliest female nurses were usually nuns. Early nursing uniforms reflected this, and professional nurses were expected to live like nuns when they weren't knocking themselves out in the wards. These women had a right to feel proud of their achievements, but their expressions might reflect the price as much as the reward of their status.

More professional now

In 1910, in fact up until the fifties, nurses were basically handmaidens to doctors. Nurses made beds, changed bedpans, and did all of the other dirty work in the hospital. Few had college degrees; you became a nurse after working for room and board in a training hospital for several years. The status of nurses was very low.

Now, almost every nurse has a college degree. Nurses actually do most of the procedures (after receiving orders from the doctors), and with standing orders, advanced practice nurses can operate pretty independently doing things that only doctors used to do. Scrubs are a lot more practical than those stupid uniforms. Nurses are a lot more professional now, and have a lot higher status than back then.

By the way, the outcomes are a lot better now. I'd much rather be someone in scrubs helping you get better than an "angel" in a uniform watching you die.


Is this is what we're gonna get when National Health Care comes in?

Oh so DIRTY!

By the looks on their faces, I bet they are loath to be in such fresh, clean and starched uniforms only to be told to sit on the dirt and grass. How unsanitary!

Florence Nightingmare

I guess the pretty girls got to be teachers or something.

Garfield Memorial Hospital

This is on the lawn of Garfield Memorial Hospital, which was demolished in 1960, to be replaced by an elementary school and high-rise apartments.

Armed and Dangerous

The two "nurses" on the left have sizeable steel scissors holstered in their waistbands. That would send me home to recuperate.

Momma said..

if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all.
Nice uniforms.

Boxing Nurses

Looks like the hospital's Nurses Boxing Team to me.


I miss uniforms in the hospital. Uniforms made the nurses easily identifiable from the orderlies or doctors. Today everyone is in scrubs. Whether you are a veterinary tech, dental hygienist or brain surgeon you're in scrubs.

The nurses, I believe, were far more professional than they are in scrubs today.

Even this stern bunch prove my point.

what do we think of matron?

oh go on....just a little smile?

Happy bunch.

The photographer must have said something not to their liking. Like a really bad joke. That one lady on the far right/middle row is giving a look that could kill. One of the weirder photos I've seen on the site.

Comfortable Shoes and Comfortable Uniforms...

were definitely not the order of the day!! Also, love the hats on the ladies on the balcony with tons of fake fruit on them.

Her Eyes Are Telling

The leftmost nurse's eyes tell me that she either has a thing going with the photographer or she plans to soon have a thing going with the photographer.
I wonder how it worked out?

Frost McFrosty

I wouldn't want any one among them to change my bedpan...

The photographer's instructions:

Look away from the camera, and think of sour lemons.

Given some of those "smiles"/snarls...

I'd be VERY motivated to get well quickly... :)

Evil Angels

They all look like they can't wait to get their hands on a patient. And I don't mean in a healing sort of way.

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