10 Most Famous Nurses in History


Dorothea Dix

While Dorothea Dix's background and experience weren't in nursing -- she was a teacher and ran a successful private school in New England -- Dix is known for her work as a humanitarian and social reformer who spent more than 40 years lobbying for better care and treatment of those with mental illness, as well as better, more humane prison conditions.

Just after the start of the Civil War in 1861, Dix volunteered for the Union army and was appointed as Superintendent of Women Nurses for the Union Army by the Secretary of War. During this time, Dix oversaw about 6,000 women who were providing nursing services in military hospitals.

While advocating for the mentally ill, Dix was instrumental in founding 32 institutions specifically for treating mental health conditions, lobbied for state-supported mental hospitals, and campaigned for the rights of the mentally ill and inmates worldwide.