Theses Doctoral

Mary Beard: Member of the Nursing Vanguard, 1903 to 1944

Boddice, Sandra Dawn

The purpose of this historical study was to demonstrate that public health nurses in the United States have a significant history of successfully organizing, developing, and leading public health services during times of societal change and transition. This study examined the critical role that public health nursing leader Mary Beard played during her 13-year appointment (1925 to 1938) at the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), primarily through an analysis of her work diaries and correspondence. During Beard’s tenure at the RF, she occupied a unique position within the nursing profession by providing expert opinion on nursing and health care matters to the Directors of the RF.
During the course of this study, it became apparent that it would not be possible to analyze all the work Beard conducted at the RF because of the vast number of projects in which she was engaged. Therefore, this study focused on three areas of her work: advisory assistance to a national nursing organization; the development of nursing education at the University of Toronto; and the condition and status of nursing in the southern states, with particular emphasis on African American nurses.
A review of Beard’s work demonstrated that her overarching goal was to provide quality public healthcare at the national and international level. Beard was cognizant that nursing was integral to achieving this goal. Arguably, Beard held a privileged place in society she was White, Protestant, middle class, and socially connected, and these attributes allowed her to enter an elite school of nursing in New York City.
Beard’s work is not as widely known as other American nurses, such as Lillian Wald. This researcher did not find specific details of Beard’s involvement in other social movements such as the rights of women, workers, immigrants, and African Americans. However, the case could be made that Beard’s life’s work was an example of her commitment to public healthcare at home and abroad and her work and actions demonstrated her commitment to female equality in the workplace.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Lewenson, Sandra
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 6, 2019