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100 Years of American Red Cross Nursing

Bulman, Alison Senior editorial coordinator

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: May 2009 - Volume 109 - Issue 5 - p 32
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000351504.09015.43
On the Cover


"I would rather live on a crust and serve the Red Cross than do anything else in the world," said Jane Delano, a graduate of Bellevue Training School for Nurses in New York City, in 1886. Although she worked as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps, her greatest achievement was as a full-time volunteer, helping to establish the American Red Cross nursing service in 1909.

During World Wars I and II, some 100,000 nurses were recruited into the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. Domestically, 15,000 nurses battled "Spanish flu" during the 1918 influenza pandemic, establishing blood drives and building an infrastructure that encompassed vaccinations, home health care, and public health services.

One hundred years later 30,000 nurses serve as employees or volunteers, providing aid and nursing care in disasters here and abroad; they're involved in blood drives, governance, military clinics and hospitals, health and safety, nurse training, and family caregiving.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed March 1943 the first Red Cross Month: "I summon the men, women, and young people of our country, in every city and town and village, in every county and state throughout the land, to enlist in the army of mercy mobilized under the banner of the Red Cross and to contribute generously to the Red Cross War Fund."

And on February 27 of this year, in honor of the Red Cross, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation stating, "The Red Cross has continued to serve those suffering from large- and small-scale disasters. The organization is best known for its work helping communities deal with major disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. These large-scale disasters represent a major part of the work of the American Red Cross. Just as important are the tens of thousands of small-scale disasters that occur every day in communities nationwide, and the volunteers who respond to them."

The Red Cross celebrates its 100th anniversary on May 7 during National Nurses Week. The organization will announce the winner of the Susan Hassmiller Nursing Award, to promote disaster preparedness and response, and present the 2009 Jane Delano Society Scholarship to two nursing students. On April 8, the American Red Cross announced the appointment of Sharon A. R. Stanley, PhD, RN, RS, to the position of chief nurse and director of Disaster Health and Disaster Mental Health Services. Of the two aspects of her new job, Stanley told AJN, "I'm finding that balancing act to be invigorating and filled with possibilities." Previously, Stanley was the program director for the Ohio Center for Public Health Preparedness in the College of Public Health at Ohio State University and before that, chief of disaster planning at the Ohio Department of Health. The American Red Cross had eliminated the chief nurse position last June as part of cost-cutting measures (see AJN Reports, July 2008).

On the cover is the Red Cross poster At the Helm—in Time of Need by American artist Howard Crosby Renwick (who used the pseudonym Hayden C. Hayden). The image depicts a nurse remaining calm and steadfast in the face of a sea of war. Renwick was a cousin of the famous American architect James Renwick, designer of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

On this page is the American Red Cross Nurse enrollment pin, which Delano helped to create. It's still worn by all Red Cross nurses. As many as 370,000 have been issued, each consecutively numbered and worn until it's either returned to the Red Cross or buried with the nurse. For more information on the American Red Cross, go to





Alison Bulman

Senior editorial coordinator

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.