The 19th Century


North Carolina opens its first state funded psychiatric hospital in Raleigh. Then called the NC Hospital for the Insane, it was later renamed Dix Hospital in tribute to a family member of Dorothea Dix the crusader and later Civil War nurse who lobbied the state legislature to establish and fund the hospital.


The Civil War, 1861-1865

Most scholars agree that modern nursing began in the United States during the Civil War.The overwhelming morbidity and mortality rates of soldiers on both sides of the conflict were a catalyst for women to band together to respond to the crisis. North Carolina nurses included the women volunteers who organized the "Wayside Hospitals" in many railroad towns, women who volunteered to go to the battlefields and render aid, as well as those men and women employed as hospital nurses by both the Confederate and Union governments.

Article about the Confederate Hospital in Wilson NC

See Harriet Jacobs and Jane Wilkes in the biography section of this website for examples of an African American nurse and a White nurse in the Civil War.

Photo from the Library of Congress with this information:

About this Item
Title:  Private William Henry of Co. B, 31st North Carolina Infantry Regiment in uniform (probably from Anson County)
Photograph shows identified soldier who enlisted at age 53, served as a nurse in hospitals at Washington, North Carolina, and Summerville, South Carolina, and was a prisoner at Roanoke Island, North Carolina.
Created / Published
[United States], [1863]
Reconstruction, 1865-1867

The Freedman's Bureau operated several hospitals in North Carolina during Reconstruction. They primarily served the needs of the formerly enslaved people and white Union sympathizers.



Cherry Hospital opened in Goldsboro, North Carolina. This psychiatric hospital admitted only African American patients. In the mid 1960s, under new civil rights laws and court decisions, the state psychiatric hospitals ceased segregating staff and patients by race.


The Progressive Era, 1890s-1920s

The Progressive Era in the United States was a period of reform which lasted from the 1890s into the 1920s. Progressive reformers, mostly college educated and middle class, sought to ameliorate a wide range of economic, political, social, and moral problems.

Founders of hospitals and schools of nursing in North Carolina sought to improve physical and mental health using the latest scientific knowledge. The North Carolina State Nurses Association was formed in 1902 to protect the health and well being of the public through regulating the delivery of safe, effective nursing care.



Lula Owl (Gloyne) was born on December 28 on the Qualla Boundary (sometimes mistakenly called the Cherokee Indian Reservation). Nurse Gloyne was the first Eastern Band Cherokee Registered Nurse. She served in WWI as a 1rst Ltn in the US Army nurse corps. In the 1920s, she served her tribe and community as a US Indian Health Service nurse providing home health and midwifery services. In the 1930s Gloyne was instrumental in the founding of the first hospital for the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe.



Mary Lewis Wyche of Vance County established the first school of nursing in the state: Rex Hospital School of Nursing in Raleigh, NC. In 1902, Wyche organized the Raleigh Nurses Association and then the NC Nurse Association. This early group of nurses was responsible for North Carolina passing the first nurse licensing law in the country. Wyche wrote "The History of Nusing in North Carolina" that was later edited and published posthumously by nurse Edna Heinzerling in 1938.

Rex Hospital



Watts Hospital School of Nursing opened in Durham and remains the oldest school of nursing in continuous operation in the state.



Asheville Mission Hospital School of Nursing opened for white females.



Broughton Hospital (then known as the Western Hospital for the Insane) opened a nursing school for white women.



St. Agnes School of Nursing, affiliated with St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh became the first nursing school for African-American women in North Carolina.



At least 9 North Carolina nurses served in the Spanish American War.

A typhoid epidemic at the state Normal School for Women (now UNC-Greensboro) brought nurses from across the state together.  This was a catalyst for the founding of the NC Nurses Association (NCNA).  Here is an excerpt from the NCNA papers found in the State Archives in Raleigh, NC:

Typhoid Fever at the Normal

            When it was seen that the state could not supply nurses in sufficient numbers to care for the typhoid cases at the Normal in September 1898, several nurses from Virginia and available practical nurses were called in.  Members of the faculty and a few students gave valuable assistance.  Thus the scarcity of nurses in the state was brought sharply to the attention of the thinking public.

            Chatting among themselves in off day hours about a state organization was recalled by Miss Batterham.  That was the first acquaintance of the nurses of the West with those of the East.

            Before the opening of the spring term, the dormitories had been fumigated and walls and floors cleaned.  Single beds with good mattresses took the pace of double ones.  All plumbing was overhauled, and things generally made sanitary.  To the gratification of Dr. McIver and members of the faculty, there was a good attendance at the spring term.



St. Peters Hospital School of Nursing opened in Charlotte.



The Highsmith Hospital School of Nursing opened in Fayetteville.

Early history of college infirmary nursing found in the NCNA papers at the state archives in Raleigh.