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Nurses: In Advertising

What do we see when we look closely?

Explore this advertisement for Mentholalum, a popular household remedy, where a young girl dressed as a nurse confirms that, in line with social expectations of the time, nursing is a profession for women.
Roll over different areas of the postcard to discover answers to the questions below.

    • Q1Can you find evidence of the child's social class?
    • A1Playing nurse was a popular game for respectable middle-class girls until 1960s feminism challenged the social expectations of women's roles.
    • Q2Can you spot what the child is doing?
    • A2Florence Nightingale advocated teaching massage in nursing schools. In the 1930s, influential nurse educators advocated including physiotherapy on the curriculum.
    • Q3Can you see what the adult is holding?
    • A3The woman holds what, presumably, is a jar of Mentholalum. At the time, various creams and ointments were used by nurses to alleviate arthritic pain and other common ailments as part of caring for their patients.
A White girl in blue and white nursing uniform, rubs the foot of a White woman.
1 2 3

An illustration of a girl playing a nurse in an advertisement for medical skin cream, ca. 1912

    • Q1Can you find evidence of the child's social class?
    • A1Playing nurse was a popular game for respectable middle-class girls until 1960s feminism challenged the social expectations of women's roles.
    • Q2Can you spot what the child is doing?
    • A2Florence Nightingale advocated teaching massage in nursing schools. In the 1930s, influential nurse educators advocated including physiotherapy on the curriculum.
    • Q3Can you see what the adult is holding?
    • A3The woman holds what, presumably, is a jar of Mentholalum. At the time, various creams and ointments were used by nurses to alleviate arthritic pain and other common ailments as part of caring for their patients.
  • 1Can you find evidence of the child's social class?
  • 2Can you spot what the child is doing?
  • 3Can you see what the adult is holding?