Meeting the mother man: rediscovering Walt Whitman, writer and nurse

Int Hist Nurs J. 1997 Winter;3(2):32-44.


Despite a long history of men working as nurses, there is a dearth of prominent male role models in nursing history. This article reevaluates the legacy left for nursing by Walt Whitman, the famous American writer who spent three years visiting hospitals and doing voluntary nursing work during the American Civil War. Whitman's nursing practice and beliefs are examined in historical context. His motivation is also explored and related to current perspectives on males in nursing. Whitman emerges as a singular man with a talent for caring and communicating its value. He is posited as a significant figure in the history of males in nursing, whose status as a gay archetype required further research. His writings comprise a substantial legacy for the whole nursing community.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 19th Century
  • Literature*
  • Nurses, Male*
  • United States
  • Warfare*

Personal name as subject

  • W Whitman