Old Photo of a Nurse in the 1890s

By Maureen A. Taylor

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1890s nurse photo

This lovely photo of a nurse was taken in the mid to late 19th century. Let’s take a closer look to see what more we can learn.

This young woman is clearly a nurse, from her white cap.  The distinctive headgear could identify where she studied to become a nurse—if a comprehensive guide existed to all those caps. Unfortunately we don’t. A Google image search  for historical nurse cap turns up women in hats and caps, but no match for this one.

She posed in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, for photographer John Barron. Whenever I see a photographer’s name, I Google it to see what turns up. A blog about Ontario photographers  had information on Barron. He began taking pictures about 1866 and closed his studio in 1898.

More web searching and asking at a local historical society or public library could reveal information on local nurse training programs this young woman might’ve been part of.

She likely had this picture taken around the time she graduated from her program. Uniforms often reflect current fashions. The bodice and sleeves of this dress suggest a date in the 1890s, which alsofits the photographer’s timeline.

If this is indeed a graduation photo, the woman would be close to 20 years old.  This means she was likely born in the late 1860s or early 1870s.

At the time, most women in nursing, teaching and other professions were single. Once a woman married, her role as a wife took over.

Last updated: March 2022