Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Mary Adelaide Nutting (1858-1948)
MSA SC 3520-13593


Mary Adelaide Nutting was a pioneer in nursing education in Maryland and the United States. Her efforts to increase the level and quality of education for nurses were instrumental in establishing the prestigious nursing education system that exists today. Nutting's role as an administrator, professor, and nurse propelled her to a position of pre-eminence among her peers, and she is still recognized today as one of the top leaders in nursing education.

Mary Adelaide Nutting was born November 1, 1858, to Vespasian and Harriet Sophia Peasley Nutting in Quebec, Canada.1 Growing up, she attended private schools in Quebec and Montreal, and she studied music and art at schools in Boston and Ottawa.2 Nutting went on to teach music at the Cathedral School for Girls in St. John's, Newfoundland.3 Nutting was a very independent young woman. She decided early on in her life that she would never marry, believing it would quash her potential for personal and professional achievement.4

This potential would be realized when, in 1889, Nutting enrolled at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School in Baltimore, Maryland.5 Nutting, thirty-one years old, was one of seventeen women to enter the first class at the school.6 She graduated two years later, and decided to remain at Johns Hopkins as head nurse of the training school, where she went on to make many important contributions.7 Nutting revised the curriculum, improved living and working conditions for nurses, and instituted scholarships for incoming nursing students.8 She also increased the length of the nursing program at the training school from two years to three years, and instituted a six month preparatory period for nurses, known as the preclinical period.9

By 1892, Nutting  became assistant superintendent of nurses at Johns Hopkins, and, by 1894, she was promoted to superintendent and principal of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.10 Around this time, Nutting also worked to establish the discipline of public health nursing, which involved sending nursing students into the homes of the sick poor, particularly to care for sick mothers.11 In addition, Nutting also created a course on dietetics at Johns Hopkins, the first course of its kind in any nursing school in the United States.12

During her time at Johns Hopkins, Nutting was also actively involved in outside organizations. In 1896, she was elected the President of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses of the United States and Canada, later known as the National League of Nurses.13 From that point forward, Nutting crusaded to institute nursing education programs within universities nationwide.14 She helped establish the American Journal of Nursing in 1900, and in, 1903, she was elected the first president of the State Association of Graduate Nurses.15 That same year, Nutting attended a convention hosted by the Nurses' Associated Alumnae of the United States where she presented a paper on "The District Nurse and Preventative Medicine."16 She would present numerous such papers at conferences and conventions throughout her life. And, in 1904, Nutting helped create Maryland's first nurse-practice law.17 She also received "R.N. Card No. 1" in 1904, making her the first registered nurse in Maryland.18

Nutting was not only involved in various nursing organizations at this time; she was also involved in the active improvement of life in the Baltimore area. In 1905, she was elected as a director of the Arundell Good Government Club, an organization formed to promote a better sewage system in Baltimore.19 At the club's annual meeting, a resolution was passed to further support a sewage system in Baltimore that included a $100 endorsement for the campaign.20 This was the first instance of a woman's club providing an endorsement for such a campaign.21 Nutting was also involved in the American Historical Association in 1905, attending one of its social events as a woman delegate for the Association.22

Shortly before 1907, Nutting was appointed to a committee under the Society of Superintendents.23 The committee's goal was to find ways to better prepare teachers and administrators in the nursing field.24 The result of such a collaboration was an experimental program at the Teachers' College of Columbia University, in hospital economics.25 Under the program, the dean of Teachers' College allowed nurses to take existing courses in psychology and hospital economics if the Society of Superintendents would financially support teachers for new courses.26 Nutting traveled back and forth from New York to Maryland to help initiate the program.27

Nutting's hard work on the program paid off when, in 1907, she was offered the position as chair of institutional management at Columbia's Teachers' College.28 She was the first nurse in the world to be appointed to a chair on a university faculty.29 The Johns Hopkins Hospital Nursing School said of her resignation, "[it is] a distinct loss not only to the institution with which she has been so long associated, but to the state of Maryland as well."30 1907 was an important year for Nutting. In addition to her appointment at the Teachers' College, she and her colleague, Lavinia L. Dock, published the first two volumes of A History of Nursing: The Evolution of the Methods of Care for the Sick from the Earliest Times to the Foundation of the First English and American Training Schools for Nurses.31 This was one of the most definitive books of the time on the history of nursing, and was widely publicized.32 Nutting would also write many other articles that appeared in a variety of periodicals during her life.

Although she was now living in New York, Nutting still maintained a close connection with Maryland. In 1908, Nutting was elected honorary Vice President of the then newly formed Equal Suffrage League.33 The League, designed to promote women's suffrage in Baltimore, depended on its own individual members to put out literature on suffrage, rather than hire a company to do it for them.34

In 1910, Teachers' College opened up a new school for the training of nurses who planned to pursue a teaching profession.35 Nutting was simultaneously named head of the new Department of Nursing and Health.36 She would sustain her connection to Maryland for the rest of her life through her involvement in various nursing organizations and associations, particularly at Johns Hopkins, where she would continue to uphold her affiliation. As late as 1921, Nutting was elected as chair of the Working Committees in Charge of the Appeal of the Alumnae of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing for an endowment fund.37

During World War I, Nutting was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson as chair of the Committee on Nursing of the Council of National Defense.38 She was tasked with finding ways to secure enough nurses and nursing resources to support the war effort. As part of her job responsibilities, she sent a letter out to newspapers asking for women to help in the war effort by becoming nurses. She wrote, "The country is depending upon its professionally trained nurses to care for the sick and wounded men of our army in France."39

In 1920, Nutting helped open the Adelaide Nutting Historical Collection at Teachers' College, which contained an extensive library collection on world-famous nurse Florence Nightingale.40 Nutting was also responsible for helping to found the Florence Nightingale International Foundation, where the Adelaide Nutting Fund for the Collection of Nightingaleana was established.41 Nutting was not only one of the early Presidents of the foundations, she was also elected honorary vice president of it.42,43

Nutting was awarded an honorary master's degree from Yale University in 1922.44 At that time, only six other women had been granted that same degree from Yale University.45 Nutting continued to work at Teachers College until her retirement in 1925, after eighteen years of service to the college.46 While at the College, Nutting led a three year program that resulted in the Standard Curriculum for Schools of Nursing (1917), which revolutionized the consistency of nursing education.47 She was also active in founding the International Council of Nurses at this time.48

Nutting received the Liberty Service Medal after World War I for her, "notable humanitarian and patriotic services," from the Council of the National Institute for Social Sciences.49 In 1944, Nutting was presented with a medal by the National League of Nursing Education named in her honor.50 The Mary Adelaide Nutting Award is awarded biennially to individuals who have made great strides in the field of nursing education.51

Nutting passed away in October of 1948 in New York after a long illness; she was one month shy of her ninetieth birthday.52 Her contributions to the field of nursing and nursing education were immeasurable, and her legacy has remained prominent into the present day. In 1976, she was one of the first of fifteen women to be inducted into the American Nurses' Association Hall of Fame, and in 1994 she joined the list of accomplished women in the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.53 Nutting was an exceptional women in her time, and her memory will remain present in society for years to come.

Written by Archival Intern Emily J. Steedman, B.A. History, A.A. Liberal Arts & Sciences

For a more extensive biography of Mary Adelaide Nutting, see:

Jeanne Hackley Stevenson, "Mary Adelaide Nutting, 1858-1948," in Notable Maryland Women, edited by
    Winifred G. Helmes, 256-262, Cambridge, Maryland: Tidewater Publishers, 1977.

1. "Nutting, Mary Adelaide," BookRags, Incorporated, (Accessed July 21, 2011). Return to text
2. "MARY NUTTING, 89, LONG AT COLUMBIA: Pioneer in Nursing Education Dies-Was First to Receive Professorship in Field," New York Times,
         October 5, 1948, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Return to text
3. "Nutting, Mary Adelaide," BookRags, Incorporated. Return to text
4. Ibid. Return to text
5. Ibid. Return to text
6. Ibid. Return to text
7. "MARY NUTTING, 89, LONG AT COLUMBIA," New York Times. Return to text
8. "Nutting, Mary Adelaide," BookRags, Incorporated. Return to text
9. "MISS NUTTING, HOPKINS NURSE PIONEER, DIES: Yale Once Called Her One Of World's Most Useful Women," Baltimore Sun, October
         5, 1948, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Return to text
10. "Mary Adelaide Nutting - Overview,", (Accessed July 21, 2011). Return to text
11. "MISS NUTTING, HOPKINS NURSE PIONEER, DIES," Baltimore Sun. Return to text
12. Ibid. Return to text
13. "Nutting, Mary Adelaide," BookRags, Incorporated. Return to text
14. Ibid. Return to text
15. Ibid. Return to text
16. Ibid. Return to text
17. Ibid. Return to text
18. Audrey Bishop, "Nursing's Diamond Jubilee," Baltimore Sun, November 14, 1948, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Return to text
19. "ARUNDELL CLUB FOR SEWERS: Women Urge Members To Work For Loan," Baltimore Sun, April 28, 1905, ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
          Return to text
20. Ibid. Return to text
21. Ibid. Return to text
22. "ENTERTAINED AT SUPPER," Baltimore Sun, December 29, 1905, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Return to text
23. "Nutting, Mary Adelaide," Bookrags, Incorporated. Return to text
24. Ibid. Return to text
25. Ibid. Return to text
26. Ibid. Return to text
27. Ibid. Return to text
28. Emily Emerson Lantz, "The 'Registered Nurse,'" Baltimore Sun, June 24, 1906, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Return to text
29. "Society," Iola Daily Register, June 26, 1925, Return to text
30. Emily Emerson Lantz, "The 'Registered Nurse.'" Return to text
31. "Important New Books," New York Times, December 11, 1907, Return to text
32. Ibid. Return to text
33. "WOMEN WANT TO VOTE: Equal Suffrage League Organized At Arundell Club," Baltimore Sun, December 19, 1908, ProQuest Historical
           Newspapers. Return to text
34. "Two Active And Enthusiastic Suffragette Clubs Are Preparing To Stir Up Baltimore With A Series of Outdoor Tournaments," Baltimore Sun, April
           25, 1909, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Return to text
35. "WHAT WOMEN ARE DOING," Trenton Evening Times, August 29, 1910, Return to text
36. "Mary Adelaide Nutting - Overview," Return to text
37. "WORKERS FOR FUND NAMED: Hopkins Nursing School Alumnae Plan Campaign," Baltimore Sun, February 8, 1921, ProQuest Historical
           Newspapers. Return to text
38. "MARY NUTTING, 89, LONG AT COLUMBIA," New York Times. Return to text
           DEFENSE TO EVERY SCHOOL OF NURSING IN THE UNITED STATES," La Crosse Tribune And Leader-Press, September 2, 1917,
  Return to text
40. "MARY NUTTING, 89, LONG AT COLUMBIA," New York Times. Return to text
41. "MISS NUTTING, HOPKINS NURSE PIONEER, DIES," Baltimore Sun. Return to text
42. Ibid. Return to text
43. "MARY NUTTING, 89, LONG AT COLUMBIA," New York Times. Return to text
44. "THEY STAND ALONE," Capital Times, July 11, 1922, Return to text
45. "Article 1 - No Title," Baltimore Sun,  July 19, 1922, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Return to text
46. "Pioneer In Nursing Has Retired After 18 Years," Hamilton Daily News, August 8, 1925, Return to text
47. "Nutting, Mary Adelaide," BookRags, Incorporated. Return to text
48. "HONORS NURSING TEACHER: National Group Presents Medal to Mary Adelaide Nutting, 86," New York Times, May 5, 1944, ProQuest
           Historical Newspapers. Return to text
49. "MARY NUTTING, 89, LONG AT COLUMBIA," New York Times. Return to text
50. "HONORS NURSING TEACHER," New York Times. Return to text
51. "National Unit Honors U.W. Nursing Dean," Capital Times, May 26, 1969, Return to text
52. "MISS NUTTING, HOPKINS NURSE PIONEER, DIES," Baltimore Sun. Return to text
53. "American nurses are enshrined," Daily Northwestern, July 14, 1976, Return to text

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