Overlooked Soldiers in the Cancer Wars: Nurses and Cancer, 1880-1950

by Brigid Lusk

Jan 1, 2003
The history of humanity's continuing battle with cancer has been extensively examined in lay and scholarly literature. Fear of this dreaded disease has resulted in a compelling interest in the experiences of those who suffer from it, their families, and their doctors. Yet the work of nurses, although at the forefront of the war on cancer, has been curiously disregarded. Nurses are a fixture in any serious illness but their work readily blends into the disease milieu, inconspicuous although essential. Several factors may explain this phenomenon. Formerly nurses, as predominantly female, have been disregarded when traditional white male-focused history was written. Nurses' highly traditional feminine role also failed to ignite much interest from women's and social historians. Nurses were not autonomous practitioners; indeed, unquestioning obedience to male physician authority was demanded. However, nurses' work presents a wealth of intimate and socially important human stories.
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