Florence Nightingale: the evolution and social impact of feminist values in nursing

J Holist Nurs. 2010 Mar;28(1):70-8. doi: 10.1177/0898010109360256.


Although generally recognized as the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale has been criticized for her apparent lack of support of women's issues, including suffrage. This article examines the primary and supporting literature surrounding this topic. Findings indicate that Nightingale developed a complex set of beliefs that supported women as individuals rather than from a gender perspective. She did, in fact, support the concept of women's suffrage but did not give it priority. Victorian women suffered from lack of legal status, education, financial independence, and support from either the family or church as social institutions. Therefore, Nightingale's conception of nursing as a secular, educated profession cannot be overemphasized as a benchmark in the developing importance of women in the social system.