Tribute To My Mom and Daughter – Nursing’s Past and Future

My mom, Evelyn Wagner Thomas was born 2/19/1916, 100 years ago this week. She died 20 years ago at the age of 79.

The crazy thing is my mom never intended to work as a nurse. She went to nursing school in the 1930s for the sole purpose of becoming an airline hostess so she could travel.  She was from a small town in Kansas, Smith Center, and flying was her ticket out, to experience the big world.

Interestingly, for a period of time before WWII, the commercial airlines employed only RNs for their airline hostess positions.  This was a marketing strategy for the commercial airlines to recruit passengers and grow their business. The RNs ensured passenger safety for the large number of first time flyers of that day.

And it turned out to be true.  In my mom’s scrapbook I found an article about a Nellie Granger, a TWA hostess who was cited as a heroine for her role as the sole surviving crew member of a DC-2 accident in 1936 near Uniontown, PA. She saved the lives of two passengers and walked out of the crash site for help.

FE442FEA-1938-425A-9175-E1936BD58E4CMy mom’s dream was fulfilled; she flew with TWA (Trans World Airlines) after she graduated from nursing school in 1937.   She did practice nursing 20+ years later after a refresher course. She was recruited into an ICU in their early stages of development.

What a pendulum career swing she experienced!

And nursing’s career swings continue.

My daughter was just accepted into a nursing program.  Her question has long been, medicine or nursing? Her passion is global health. Repeatedly she has witnessed and learned as a Peace Corp volunteer and a graduate student in global health that it is nursing that has the most impactful role in improving the health of people everywhere.

It started with the desire to see the world.


By Jean Watson

You/We who do not know the future of nursing and health care
We/You who know too much of the past
Now step into new space
You/We create new options
Envision new hopes
And possibilities not yet dreamt of –
Vibrating possibilities
Waiting to unfold for humanity, for health, for healing
For Being-Doing-Becoming Nursing in a new tune.
Learning a new song –
A new sound, a new rhythm, a new Voice
Opening to that which might be, not conforming to what already is
And which no longer serves
Self, society
You/We the old and new
As you encounter anyone who tells you
Nursing is less than what you know and believe
Bless them and turn away.
If what anyone tells you is fear-based, limited, or limiting
Also bless them and turn away.
Turn towards love and caring from own deep self.
You are the source of your own power and possibilities

Watson, J. (2008) NURSING- The Philosophy and Science of Caring, Revised Edition. University Press of Colorado, p. xxi.


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