Virginia Board of Nursings former Executive Director Corinne Dorsey, RN, has a soft spot for nurse pioneer Sadie Heath Cabaniss, the first president of the Virginia State Association of Nurses in the early 1900s.
Not only does Dorsey appreciate the extraordinary accomplishments of Cabaniss, but Dorsey also leads a campaign to raise $4 million for Virginia Commonwealth University, the goal of which will be to name the relatively new VCU School of Nursing building after Cabaniss. Dorsey says the money raised will be used for scholarships, faculty enhancements and a chair for the deans position.
Dorsey, who heads the History Committee of the Virginia Nurses Association, says Cabaniss greatest accomplishments are best summarized in a nomination letter for Cabaniss that led to her induction into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 2002. Those accomplishments are:
Her role in organizing the VSAN, one of the first three state associations for nursing in the U.S.
Her leadership in establishing a registration law to regulate nursing practice in Virginia in 1903, one of the first four nurse practice acts in the U.S.
Her practice as a public health nurse in four states
Her commitment to alumni associations for schools of nursing.
Dorsey marvels at the ability of Cabaniss, and other women of her time, to have had such an impact on nursing and society as a whole through the establishment of nurse practice acts in the early 1900s.
The idea that a group of women … who had no vote but could have enough influence on the legislatures in four states in 1903 to get four nurse practice acts (enacted) in a relatively short time after the organization of state nurses associations … is just an astounding accomplishment, Dorsey said.
Cabaniss, an 1893 graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, was instrumental in organizing the VSAN in 1901 and served as its first president. The VSAN lives on as the Virginia Nurses Association.
The things that nursing has accomplished over time have come through the activities that have taken place in a state, Dorsey says. To have been the person who called the meeting to organize one of the first three state nurses associations in 1901, and the continuation of those organizations as influential groups in the states over time, is a very significant contribution.
Tom Clegg is a member of the editorial team.