May 17, 2019
The Pomp of the Pin
With Saturday’s hooding and pinning ceremonies, which precede graduates’ storied march down the Lawn Sunday morning (an event that will feature Dean Dorrie Fontaine as the keynote speaker), it seems fitting to take a look back at the pomp and circumstance of our reliance on pins to celebrate academic progress and program completion.
For nearly 120 years, UVA School of Nursing has bestowed nursing pins to its graduates. The small, gold and navy pin featuring Jefferson’s Rotunda at its center has been awarded to graduates upon their completion of the program requirements and also signifies their induction into the ranks of UVA alumni. It's changed somewhat since 1901, but largely retains the same features.
The history of nurses earning pins, however, goes back much further. During the Crusades from the 9th to 15th centuries, nursing pins were given to members of the Knights Hospitalier, a religious order that cared for injured and suffering crusaders. Acceptance into this Knights Order was an honor for these early nurses, and the pin – a white Maltese cross worn over the heart -- symbolized an individual’s dedication to service. By the late 1800s, the Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London also awarded a red Maltese Cross pin to students who’d completed the program, but it was Bellevue Training School that was first to adopt an official pin with a specific school insignia.
Bellvue’s, designed by Tiffany & Co. in 1880 and made of real gold, had at its center a crane, symbolizing vigilance, surrounded by a wreath of poppies, signifying the role of nurses in relieving pain and suffering. The outer unbroken circle of blue represented constancy.
Nursing schools in England adopted the practice in the late 1900s, awarding gold and silver pins to outstanding nurses in each class, associating the award with excellence in nursing care. During this same time in the United States, training schools soon began awarding pins to all graduates, designing a unique symbol for their institution to distinguish alumni.
Congratulations to those we’re pinning, hooding, and celebrating at this weekend’s 190th Final Exercises!
This #FlashbackFriday brought to you by the Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry, with special thanks to AAHN president and professor Arlene Keeling and professor emerita Barbara Brodie, whose book MR. JEFFERSON’S NURSES provided the background for this post.