Nurse Week: A Week for All Who Care
Lately, there are movies like The Hunger Games that take place in an alternative universe with unlikely heroes who strive against impossible odds. Nursing history is the ultimate alternative universe filled with heroes who strive against impossible odds. Yet our history actually happened.
Susie King Taylor was such a hero. She was born into slavery in Georgia and escaped to freedom when the Union army overran Fort Pulaski in Savanah which, along with other battles amongst the coastal islands in Georgia and the Carolinas, created havens for the war "contraband". Contraband was the polite word for escaped slaves who would no longer help the Southern cause.
Mrs.Taylor married her first husband, Edward King, at this time and followed his regiment the First South Carolina Volunteers of African Descent, later renamed the 33rd United States Colored Troops. She worked as nurse for the next 3 years. Her life would have been forgotten if she had not written her memoir in 1902. "Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S.C. Volunteers" is available by searching Google.
Today the history of nursing centers around women like Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, who certainly did much to earn their place in our memory. However, history is made by many people, not just like people such as Florence History involves the hardworking talented unsung heroes who slog through day to day doing what needs to be done. These heroes are often people you would least expect. They are people who, despite the incredible odds and hardships, accomplished much good in the world. They are people like Mrs. Susie King Taylor. They are people like you and me.
Mrs.Taylor said she wrote her life story to "show how much service and good we can do to each other, and what sacrifces we can make for our liberty and rights, and that there were ‘loyal women,' as well as men, in those days, who did not fear shell or shot, who cared for the sick and dying;"
Perhaps this is the most important message from Nurse's Week. In this time when there are threats to our liberty and when there are still shells and shootings, we can hope there are loyal women, as well as men, who still care.