Thursday Keynote - Sioban Nelson, PhD, RN, FAAN

Playing Nurse: Exploring Material Culture for a Non-subject Centered History of Nursing

Sioban Nelson, PhD, RN, FAAN

Professor of Nursing, University of Toronto
2019 Agnes Dillon Randolph Award Recipient

Two Portuguese children in costume
Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

Material culture offers a fruitful and potentially disruptive way to explore the past. Starting from the perspective of objects as primary sources, this talk will offer two case studies on the use of material culture as a generative mechanism for historical investigation and narrative formation. In the first instance I examine the impact of the rise of professional nursing in advancing a civic role for women in the first decades of the twentieth century. In the second case I use the inclusion of a nurse in one of the most popular doll sets of the 1930s, the Dionne Quintuplets, to examine the social role of public health nursing in enshrining professional expertise as part of the furtherance of the scientific management of families. Issues of gender relations, identity formation and professional authority will be examined and the power of objects to drive empirical and theoretical investigations will be explored.

Sioban Nelson Photograph Sioban Nelson is a leading nursing scholar. She has published nine books (seven edited or coauthored collections and two monographs), including the acclaimed Say Little, Do Much: Nursing, Nuns, and Hospitals in the Nineteenth Century. With Suzanne Gordon, she edited the prize-winning Complexities of Care: Nursing Reconsidered, a ground-breaking work on the challenges facing contemporary nursing. Notes on Nightingale: The Influence and Legacy of a Nursing Icon (co-edited with Anne Marie Rafferty), honours the centenary of Florence Nightingale’s death.

Dr. Nelson served as editor-in-chief of the journal Nursing Inquiry for 12 years. Currently, she is co-editor of the interdisciplinary Culture and Politics of Health Care Work series for Cornell University Press. She was a commissioner on the Canadian Nurses Association National Expert Commission for the Future of the Health Care System that launched the “A Nursing Call to Action” report in June 2012. Dr. Nelson was member of the Board of the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, and co-chair of the Assessment Committee of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences on Scope of Practice in the Health Professions and lead author on the 2014 assessment report. She is the former Head of the School of Nursing at the University of Melbourne, Australia (2004-5), and served as Dean of the Lawrence S Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto from 2005-13. She served as Vice Provost Faculty and Academic Life (2014-18) and Vice Provost Academic Programs (2013-18) at the University of Toronto. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nurses and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. She is currently a member of the Quality Council of Ontario and serves as a board member of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Her current research interests include the history of nursing and material culture, the impact of the Rockefeller Foundation on global nursing in the mid-20th century and the transnational history of nursing. She is working on a general history of nursing.

Friday Keynote - Peter Hobbins, PhD

“The Westerners’ regulations are really useless”: Unpicking Detention, Compulsion, Accommodation, and Discrimination in Quarantine

Peter Hobbins, BA, BSc, PhD, University of Sydney

Mariposa carving in Sydney, Australia Historians have for decades acknowledged that quarantine always involves more than merely inhibiting the spread of infectious disease. Indeed, in a famous 1937 speech, President Roosevelt invoked community support for quarantine to encourage US opposition to “world lawlessness” and war. But even when communities endorse medical quarantine to maintain public health, its structures and practices are rarely applied evenly. Drawing upon American and Australian comparisons, this presentation explores the layers of liberties deprived by quarantine procedures over 1880–1940. Gender, class, race, and conscience all shaped how immigrants could be denied four freedoms, through overlapping practices of detention, compulsion, accommodation, and discrimination. But such processes were always erratic: exceptions and surprises abounded. Community support, rights of refusal, official squeamishness, and both overt and covert protests all watered down formal policies. “The Westerner’s regulations are really useless”, wrote one Chinese traveler in Sydney in 1880. Whether a complaint, a critique or an assertion, his carved message has endured long after the quarantine station that detained him closed down. This paper draws upon similar graffiti left by immigrants in Sydney and San Francisco to restore their stories of resilience, resourcefulness and – sometimes – humor. 

Peter Hobbins photograph Peter Hobbins is a senior research fellow in the Department of History at the University of Sydney, Australia. As a historian of science, technology and medicine, his interests have spanned snakebite to smallpox, and sailing ships to aircraft accidents. Through 2013–16, he worked with a team of historians and archaeologists to document nearly 1600 carvings left by detainees at Sydney’s North Head Quarantine Station over 1835 to 1984. In addition to a range of cross-disciplinary academic publications, Peter was lead author on the project’s 2016 trade book. Stories from the Sandstone: Quarantine Inscriptions from Australia’s Immigrant Past won a Premier’s History Award and is shortlisted for the Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Prize. In 2017 Peter also published an academic monograph with Manchester University Press, Venomous Encounters: Snakes, Vivisection and Scientific Medicine in Colonial Australia. While his current postdoctoral project focuses on aviation safety in Australia over 1920–70, he is also leading an initiative that encourages community historians to research and commemorate the 1918–19 influenza pandemic.


Saturday Keynote - Shauna Devine, PhD

And the Doctors Came Home: Smallpox and the Science of Bacteriology in the Post-Civil War South

Shauna Devine, PhD

Assistant Professor Schulich School of Medicine and the Department of History
and Associate Research Professor, Department of History, Western University


Shauna Devine Shauna Devine is an historian of Civil War and American medicine. She has a Ph.D in medical history and currently holds a joint appointment as an assistant professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and as an associate research professor in the Department of History at Western University. She also sits on the Board of Directors for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Devine has published a number of articles on the Civil War and American medicine, and her first book entitled, Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), examines the development of scientific medicine during the American Civil War and the impact of the War's events on American medicine. Learning from the Wounded received a number of awards including the prestigious Tom Watson Brown Book Award from the Society of Civil War Historians and the Watson-Brown Foundation, the Wiley-Silver Prize from the Center for Civil War Research at the University of Mississippi, and the book was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2015. An active public speaker she has given presentations at locations such as the Army Medical Department and School, Harvard University Medical School, Duke University, The Reynold’s Lecture at the University of Alabama, The Center for Civil War Research Ole Miss, The University of Chicago Medical School, the National Institutes of Health, the University of Virginia School of Medicine and she has appeared on C-Span. She is currently working on a second book length project, which investigates the history of science, medicine, and medical education in the American South during the Civil War and Reconstruction.