In today’s post, Dr. Mary R. Melendy, M.D., PH. D. tells readers what qualities make the perfect nurse.
Dr. Melendy advises the perfect woman that from time to time, she may need to hire a nurse to help care for an ailing family member. She said that a perfect woman must not only be a good mother, but a good wife as well, and that by hiring a nurse she will have more time to cook and clean, and wait on her husband. God forbid that a man should ever be expected to get off his dead-butt and help around the house.
It was hard to find a good nurse in the early 1900s. According to Dr. Melendy, the perfect nurse had a bright and cheery disposition, a light step, and a happy face. Since men were repressing women back then, I’m sure these requirements contributed to the nursing shortage. During the interview process, Dr. Melendy encouraged readers to look for a Christian woman with a pleasant voice, a cheerful smile, good dexterity, a strong back, and good culinary skills. A nurse had to be a whiz in the kitchen so she could whip up a batch of gruel when it was needed. Readers were also told to look for an obedient woman who required little sleep. Dr. Melendy warned readers against hiring anyone who was “croaker” or a “putterer,” saying that they ought to be either “married or widowed.”
It was very important that the perfect nurse know how to setup and maintain a sickroom, because without an ideal environment, the patient would never regain his or her health. Dr. Melendy said that good health depended on superior room ventilation, so the perfect nurse knew to open all the windows, even in the dead of winter. The perfect nurse protected her patient from drafts, removed wilted flowers from her patient’s room, and protected her patient’s eyes from the direct rays of the sun or lamp light. She also knew how to use a mop, and a scrub board when washing her patient’s bed linen. Like today, the perfect nurse could multitask.
As archaic as Dr. Melendy’s ideas seem today, she did give her readers one excellent piece of advice on how to find and retain a good nurse: Follow her advice, pay her well, and most importantly treat her with respect and dignity.
In my next installment of the Perfect Woman we will discuss Dr. Melendy’s thoughts on courtship and marriage.