Virginia nurse activist Agnes Dillon Randolph holding a thermometer. VCU Library.

Agnes Dillon Randolph:
Virginia Nurse Advocate

by Mary Gibson, PhD, RN

March 4, 2021 at 12 pm

via Zoom

In 1908, the Virginia Board of Health pledged to direct its "best efforts" to the control of tuberculosis. At the time, experts estimated that more than 20,000 Virginians suffered from the disease, which had already claimed 5,000 lives. Early efforts included the organization of camps and the construction of sanitoria in the state, the first of which opened in 1911 in the mountains of western Virginia. Agnes Dillon Randolph, a registered nurse with an elite Virginia pedigree and a passion for the eradication of TB, became Secretary for the Virginia Anti-Tuberculosis Association and a recognized leader in the Anti-Tuberculosis movement in the U.S. During her tenure, the state was able to open a sanitarium for black patients and cut the number of deaths from the disease in half, through early detection and treatment with hospitalization. 

Examining her path from a childhood in Albemarle County, Virginia, to nursing studies in Richmond and various leadership positions, we can analyze how some elements of her personal history may have directed her to dedicate herself to the practice and advancement of nursing - particularly tuberculosis nursing. 

Mary Gibson, PhD, RN, is an associate professor emerita of nursing at UVA and an associate director emerita of the Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry.

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Image of Agnes Dillon Randolph courtesy of Tompkins McCaw Library at Virginia Commonwealth University.