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Imagining IllnessPublic Health and Visual Culture$
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David Serlin

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816648221

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816648221.001.0001

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Nursing the Nation

Nursing the Nation

The 1930s Public Health Nurse as Image and Icon

(p.143) 8. Nursing the Nation
Imagining Illness

Shawn Michelle Smith

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter explores visual representations of public health nurses who belonged to the National Organization for Public Health Nursing (NOPHN) in the 1930s, with particular emphasis on how the work of these women was quite literally “envisioned.” It first considers the NOPHN’s interest in visual culture and education during the period before discussing how new nursing uniforms worked symbolically to signal the nurse’s modernity. It then examines two of the most often-reproduced iconic images of public health nurses—the visiting nurse arriving at someone’s home, and the nurse within the home tending to a newborn—and suggests that these oft-repeated scenes depicted the public health nurse as a link, or mediator, between public and private institutions. Thus, the public health nurse emerged as a new kind of modern, mobile, independent young woman charged with securing the health of the nation.

Keywords:   visual representations, public health, nurses, National Organization for Public Health Nursing, visual culture, nursing, nursing uniforms

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