Anna Maxwell was born in New York in 1851. She and her family traveled around for years but in 1874, the opportunity to pursue nursing came along and Anna began her career as an Assistant Matron at New England Hospital. After a few years of that, she traveled around, perfecting her craft, holding various management positions involving training nurses. She started a training school at Montreal General Hospital, was the Superintendent of the Training School for Nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was the Superintendent of Nursing at Presbyterian Hospital of New York and the first Director of what would become Columbia University School of Nursing.
During the Spanish-American War in 1898, Maxwell requested to be able to take trained nurses to military hospitals to care for casualties of the war. She was sent to Georgia where they found abysmal conditions, with bad sanitation, widespread disease and death. Maxwell and her team of nurses soon got everything in order, significantly improving the recovery and well-being of the soldiers. They dealt with Typhoid, Malaria and Measles so expertly that the top brass decided to have Maxwell head up the newly created United States Army Nurse Corps.
In her new position, she trained nurses for active duty military service during World War I and personally visited European hospitals on the front lines in 1916, receiving the Medal of Honor for Public Health from France in gratitude for her service. Maxwell also pushed for nurses to receive a military rank in the service, which was granted in 1920.
Maxwell would go on to be highly involved in nursing organizations until her death in 1929 at the age of 77. Due to her service in the military, she was one of the first women buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. She is remembered as the “American Florence Nightingale”.
Read more about Anna Maxwell here.