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Digital Gallery Explore

Nurses: On the Job

What do we see when we look closely?

Examine this photograph of a nurse taken to commemorate her graduation in the early 20th century.
Roll over different areas of the postcard to discover answers to the questions below.

    • Q1Where did this nurse receive her training?
    • A1Although the name on the diploma is hard to read, this nurse probably trained at one of 36 nursing schools for African Americans. By the 1920s, there were 2,150 schools of nursing for whites, which rarely admitted black students.
    • Q2What career opportunities were available to this nurse?
    • A2African American nurses worked for black hospitals and communities, and in private homes. Segregation and racial prejudice denied opportunities for trained African American nurses to work in white hospitals.
    • Q3What do you notice about the backdrop of this portrait?
    • A3Studio photography portraiture includes a painted backdrop and flowers to offset the female figure. These conventions remain constant in nursing portraits from 1890s to 1930s.
An African American female nurse in white holds diploma and looks at the viewer.
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A nurse stands for portrait after earning her Diploma in Nursing (DIN) degree, United States, 1920s

    • Q1Where did this nurse receive her training?
    • A1Although the name on the diploma is hard to read, this nurse probably trained at one of 36 nursing schools for African Americans. By the 1920s, there were 2,150 schools of nursing for whites, which rarely admitted black students.
    • Q2What career opportunities were available to this nurse?
    • A2African American nurses worked for black hospitals and communities, and in private homes. Segregation and racial prejudice denied opportunities for trained African American nurses to work in white hospitals.
    • Q3What do you notice about the backdrop of this portrait?
    • A3Studio photography portraiture includes a painted backdrop and flowers to offset the female figure. These conventions remain constant in nursing portraits from 1890s to 1930s.
  • 1Where did this nurse receive her training?
  • 2What career opportunities were available to this nurse?
  • 3What do you notice about the backdrop of this portrait?