Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

Inspiration for Activism!

  • Vision of nurses as agents of societal and individual reform.
  • Coupled care with political activism directed at laws and social conditions

    Florence Nightingale

    contributing to ill health.

  • Not only reduced mortality rates in the Crimea but influenced subsequent army reforms related to medical training and sanitation; advised foreign governments on such matters.
  • Credited for inspiring both the founding of the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention.
  • Advocated for workhouse reforms, including the provision of trained nursing care and drafting administrative framework for the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1867, which led eventually to the National Health Services Act of 1946.
  • Laid the foundation for professional nursing by establishing the world’s first secular training school for nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London

More information here.

Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not, available for download at no cost

Jeanne Mance (1606-1673)

Inspiration for Activism! 

  • Credited as being first lay nurse in North America and the co-founder of Montreal itself.
  • Born in France, practiced nursing during 30-years war (1618-1638).
  • Came to Canada as a lay person with missionary aspirations. Upon arrival in 1642, she used her home as a hospital to treat sick people.
  • 3 years later, with financial support she had obtained in France, she founded the Hotel Dieu hospital in a settlement that became Montreal on a site where today stands a modern Hotel Dieu hospital with statue of Jeanne Mance in front of it.
  • Served as hospital administrator for 17 years. During that time, she made 2 more arduous journeys across the Atlantic (at a time when it took 3 months to cross one way), to secure further French funding and staff to care for the patients.

More information here and here



Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

Inspiration for Activism! 

  • Worked as a visiting nurse in Henry Street Settlement.
  • Fierce advocate for measures to improve the health of poor people. In 1912 she participated in labour action in textile workers’ strike, and wrote a column in “The Call” on women’s sexuality.
  • Coined the term birth control in 1914.
  • Realizing knowledge of and access to contraception was a socio-economic issue, she challenged governmental censure of contractive information by civil disobedience.
  • Indicted in 1914 for violating postal obscenity laws and fled to England for a year to avoid imprisonment.
  • In 1916, Sanger opened the first U.S. birth control clinic (for which she spent 30 days in jail).
  • Founded American Birth Control League, later to become Planned Parenthood.
  • Global role in promoting birth control, e.g., India and Japan, although pronatalist fascist movements impeded progress during WWII.
  • In 1925, Sanger arranged for American manufacture of spring-form diaphrams, and
  • Fostered research into development of spermicidal jellies and foam powders.
  • In the 1950s, secured funding for development of the birth control pill.

More information here


Dorothea Fox Jakob (1946 – )

Inspiration for Activism! 

  • American-born public health nurse; emigrated to Canada in 1973.
  • Strong social justice advocate, particularly anti-child poverty advocacy.

    Dorothea Fox-Jakob

  • Played a key role as public health nurse in Toronto, in identifying electric kettles as a key factor in elevated lead levels among infants. Reporting of her observations led to safety standards for electric kettles across the country.
  • Wrote letters to editors in newspapers, lobbied elected officials as well as the professional nursing association (RNAO) regarding the impact of child poverty on health.
  • Represented RNAO in a meeting on child poverty that led to the establishment of Campaign 2000, a public education and anti-child poverty advocacy group that still exists today.
  • As a member of the Nurses for Social Responsibility, participated in various protest and educational activities focused on the advancement of health equity.
  • Strong believer that the essence of nursing is to bear witness to what we see and speak truth to power.

Robin Lim (1956 – )

Inspiration for Activism! 

  • American citizen with strong ties to Philippines.
  • Also known as Mother or Ibu Robin.
  • Maternal health activist.
  • Became a midwife after several personal/family tragedies.
  • Initially volunteered services in Bali to help local low-income women birth babies.
  • In 2003, founded Yayasan Bumi Sehat clinics (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation) – clinics have helped deliver >5000 babies.
  • Strong parental rights advocate.
  • Awarded 2011 CNN Hero of the Year Award.
  • Author of a number of books on maternal/infant health.

For more information, see here and here