Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ocracoke Nurses

I recently had a conversation with a woman writing a book about nursing in North Carolina. She was intrigued with how remote the island was until the mid-twentieth century, and with the career of Kathleen Bragg, Ocracoke's first trained native nurse. Kathleen (1899-1975) earned her nursing degree in Rocky Mount, NC in 1923 and returned home to care for her island community. Although medical doctors occasionally set up practice on the island, for the most part Ocracoke was without other medical professionals.

In addition to making house calls as a private practitioner and working for the county as the school nurse, Kathleen delivered more than one hundred babies in her long career.

Elsie Garrish (1915-2003), another island native, also studied nursing, in the 1930s.  Elsie worked in hospitals on the mainland for a number of years, but returned to Ocracoke in 1963. If you look carefully at the 1960s tourist map below (you can click to enlarge the map), you will see Kathleen's house (near the lighthouse) and Elsie's house (on Howard Street) noted. There was no medical doctor, nor clinic on the island at that time.

Early, 1950s Tourist Map

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Civil War on the Outer Banks, Josephus Daniels, Jr, Secretary of the Navy during WWI, and his connection to Ocracoke. You can read it here:

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:05 AM

    I can only think that a generation or more of babies reared on OI were breastfed. That in it self would be a chapter in that book. or did most new mothers boil water for sterilizing bottles and mix a formula - something I know nothing about as I was lazy and breastfed (take note breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart lol)