Georgetown Time Machine: Smiling Nurse

This week on Georgetown Time Machine, GM visits the cheerful presence of a smiling nurse. The photo is from inside Georgetown University Hospital and was taken during Christmastime in 1954. It comes from the Daryl C. Crain, Jr. photo collection at the DCPL archives.

GM doesn’t have too much more to add about the scene, since sadly there’s no information as to who the nurse is. But he can tell you that the hat she is wearing is known as a nurse’s cap. It was the hat traditionally worn by members of her profession for centuries. At Georgetown, nurse students would receive their cap in a ceremony following their second year:

From the Hoya

In fact, here is the capping ceremony from the same year as the photo above:

The women are all holding a candle, which is part of the capping tradition. It is meant to connect the nurses to the founder of nursing, Florence Nightingale. At Georgetown, a nun would light the students’ candles as they received their cap and bib.

As described in the article, nurses received stripes or bands that would be added to the hat as they reached certain milestones. The nurse in the photo above appears to have a blue and gray band across the whole front of her cap.

The use of bands or stripes was common across the profession, with some hospitals using them to denote rank.

GM was unable to determine when Georgetown University stopped making its nurses wear caps, but across the country they fell out of use in the 1970s and 1980s.


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