Nursing uniform from the late 19th c.*
Sunday Feb 15th Have been to church and at
noon went to Mr Baileys to see sister Amelia
who is nursing there Mother went with me
Have been reading since meeting Edwin & wife came
in to spend the evening but Mr Ames & self were
just going to Mr Swains and they would not let
us stop for them so they went to Augustus Had a
pleasant call or rather visit at Mr Swains came away
about nine Oclock Very pleasant
The sun came out today, so despite it being “pritty cold,”** the Ames family went to church. During the intermission between morning and afternoon services, Evelina and her elderly mother, Hannah Lothrop Gilmore, rode out to visit Amelia Gilmore. Amelia was the widow of Evelina’s brother, Joshua Gilmore, Jr. Joshua had died three years earlier, at age 35, leaving Amelia with two sons to raise.
In order to support herself and her boys, Amelia hired out as a nurse. In this instance, she was looking after a Mr. Bailey, who must have lived near the Unitarian church. He may have lived alone, been ill and needed paid help; otherwise the convention of the day would have meant his female relatives looked after him. When Amelia wasn’t working, she and her youngest son, Samuel, lived with the Alger family near the Gilmore farm. The older son, Charles, had hired out somewhere but would soon come to reside with his uncle Alson Gilmore.
In 1852, nursing was not a formal profession. Women (nursing was considered the exclusive province of women at the time) undertook nursing because they needed to work and this was one of very few avenues open to them. They based their protocol on personal experience in caring for ill members of their own families. There were no training programs or certification venues available, in no small part because there were so few hospitals. People were cared for at home. It would take the Crimean War in Europe and the Civil War in the U.S. to change attitudes and formalize medical care.
*Courtesy of http://www.nursinglink.monster.com
**Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection