In these difficult times we wish to recognize the heroics of the health-care professionals who are saving lives every day by honoring those of the past. Some of those may have been suffragists. All were brave.
Lavinia Lloyd Dock, 1858 – 1956
Lavinia Lloyd Dock was born Feb. 26, 1858 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Despite being raised in a wealthy and privileged family, upon graduation from high school she chose to train as a nurse at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, and later worked as a visiting nurse among the poor. In 1889 she went to Johnstown, Pennsylvania to help Clara Barton nurse victims of the Johnstown Flood, and later became superintendent of nurses at the new Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She established herself as a leader in the nursing field with the publication of Textbook for Materia Medica for Nurses (1890), the first manual of drugs for nurses, that became the standard nursing textbook for a generation. In 1896 she returned to New York to work with her friend Lillian Wald at the Henry Street Settlement House in lower Manhattan where she worked among the poor for the next twenty years.
While working at the settlement house Dock was particularly struck by the needs and problems of her working class patients and became an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, especially the right of women to vote. She was arrested for attempting to vote in New York in 1896 (police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt refused to jail her). In 1909 she marched with striking shirtwaist factory workers, and in December 1912 joined suffrage leader Rosalie Gardner Jones in her 13 day hike to Albany. As a member of the National Woman’s Party she was one of the first to picket the White House in 1917, and was jailed three times at the harsh Occoquan workhouse in Virginia.
In later years she became an advocate for birth control, and actively campaigned against American involvement in World War I. She spent her retirement years writing a two-volume History of Nursing, because she believed nursing would never be fully accepted as a profession if not properly documented.
Lavinia Lloyd Dock could have lived a life of privilege and ease. Instead she chose the rigors of nursing, coupling it with a quest for political equality for women, always working to better the lives of the women in her care. She died in 1956 at the age of 99. Thank you, Lavinia Lloyd Dock.