This article examines the history and memory of American Red Cross nursing during the Jacksonville yellow fever epidemic of 1888. Although public health officials in the postemancipation South employed a variety of caregivers—women and men, blacks and whites—locals linked skilled practice to the legacy of enslaved women's health work. As a result, Clara Barton, founder and president of the American Red Cross, made the figure of the faithful female slave central to the public commemoration of Red Cross nursing in 1888. Decades later, champions of the nursing professionalism movement sought to sever the connection between enslaved women and expertise by transforming Barton's symbol of humanitarian aid from the figure of mammy to that of the jezebel, the mythic slave seductress. This article asks historians to devote more attention to the legacy of slavery and its impact on the development of modern service occupations.
Skip Nav Destination
Charles McGraw; Mammy at MacClenny, Jezebel in Jacksonville: Southern Fever Nursing in History and Memory. Labor 1 May 2012; 9 (2): 95–112. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-1540007
Download citation file: