Lavinia Dock, International Nurse: Transnational Approaches to Feminism, Social Justice, and Global Public Health

Friday, January 2, 2015: 3:50 PM
Conference Room B (Sheraton New York)
Aeleah Soine, Saint Mary's College of California
Sioban Nelson, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto
By the mid-twentieth century, global public health became a new watchword for local, national, and international nursing organizations. At its center was a cohort of nurses, colleagues, and friends who were instrumental in pre-World War I nursing professionalization and public health movements, but became divided over the appropriate ideological and practical relationship between nursing and global public health. According to Lavinia Dock, the “the oncoming of a world Public Health Movement” was focused on the opportunity and necessity for modern educated nurses to take a leading role in a movement that would go beyond the bedside care of patients to emphasize disease prevention at home and abroad. As one of her generation’s most prominent international leaders in nursing, social welfare, and suffrage movements, Dock’s comprehensive but radical formula for global public health demanded gender equality, racial reconciliation, world socialism, education, and prevention, which was increasingly at odds with professional nursing associations distancing themselves from the international women’s movement(s); complicity in racial segregation, discrimination, and inequity; and corporatization and commercialization of health care. Rather, her early public health nursing experience at the New York Henry Street Settlement, extensive travel and residencies abroad, foreign department column, and role as the long-term secretary of the International Council of Nurses, place her at the heart of the major international women’s networks prior to World War I. This paper draws upon personal correspondence, professional publications, and international organizational records to provide a case study for how individual women and their transnational organizational networks have shaped approaches to women’s issues, social justice, and public health campaigns both locally and globally.