Jo Ann Ashley 1939-1980

# 2 “Inspiration for Activism”

  • Leading voice in nursing for 2nd wave feminism
  • Author of landmark book “Hospitals, Paternalism and the Role of the

    Jo Ann Ashley

    Nurse” uncovering the history of gender and class bias in healthcare

  • Advocate for nurses to claim the right to control our own practice, to demand safe working conditions, to practice to the full extent of our education, and to fight for economic justice.

More information:

Jo Ann Ashley papers, 1942-1980. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2018, from

Kagan, P. N. (2006). Jo Ann Ashley 30 years later: legacy for practice. Nursing Science Quarterly, 19(4), 317–327.

Wolf, K. (Ed.). (1997). Jo Ann Ashley: Selected Readings. Jones & Bartlett Learning. Retrieved from

View Video

On September 2, 1976, WNED public television in Buffalo, New York, produced a segment as part of their “Woman” Series titled “New Image for Nurses: Part 1“. This episode featured a conversation with Jo Ann Ashley, Ph. D., June Rothberg, Ph.D.,  and Jean Spero, Ph.D.Dr. Ashley was an Associate Professor of Nursing at Northern Illinois University. She was also on the board of trustees of NCAP (Nurses Coalition for Action in Politics) at the time of the interview. Dr. Rothberg was Dean of the School of Nursing at Adelphi University. She was a co-founder of NCAP and the immediate past president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Dr. Spero was Dean of the School of Nursing at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She was Chair of the Board of Review of Baccalaureate and Higher Degree Programs of the National League for Nursing.

The video portrays Jo Ann’s fiesty and courageous personality!  She was fearless in speaking the truth. The archive video is available here. 

One thought on “Jo Ann Ashley 1939-1980

  1. There is so much to discuss about this video – so here are a few of my thoughts seeing it again so many years later! One thing that impressed me about this video is the fact that the 2 deans actually agreed with Jo Ann’s conclusions, and even gave graphic evidence supporting her conclusions! But as Rothberg said, her first words in fact ‘”well I was not expecting that!” But the fact is that if the 2 deans alone were interviewed, nobody would particularly sit up and take notice … and they never in fact “made history” on this issue – perhaps not any significant issue! Yet, it is also a fact that without a lot of “nice girls” getting behind some of the remedies for the underlying problem, not much could or would have happened long term. In some ways not much has happened, and some of the remedies we have made are woefully lame. But we are no longer standing and giving physicians our seats! We just don’t have a seat at the table ourselves in very important ways! Anyway, this video is such a terrific portrayal of this “tension.” And, it illustrates to me that we need both kinds of activism!

    One little exchange that stands out for me – when Rothberg in particular starts talking about how offended she was by the women’s movement early analyses and ideas about nursing – basically wallowing in her “hurt feelings” without stepping back to take a more informed analysis of what was happening. I was thrilled when Jo Ann spoke up and said – “Let’s not blame the women” – essentially moving into that analysis of the dynamic of horizontal violence of women against women, without recognizing some of the dynamics , including the ease with which early 2nd wave feminists embraced damaging stereotypes about nurses and nursing. And on our side, we need to look critically at ways in which we still perpetrate some of these stereotypes!


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