The Retirement of a Public Health Nurse Leader


  • Sarah E. Abrams

Sarah E. Abrams, Ph.D., R.N., Associate Professor, Department of Nursing, University of Vermont, Rowell 230, 106 Carrigan Drive, Burlington, VT 05405. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Elizabeth Gordon Fox was a distinguished member of the profession and an influential advocate for visiting nurse services at the time of her retirement. The dinner guests who came to honor her 20 years as director of the New Haven, Connecticut Visiting Nurse Association included luminaries in public health including Thomas Parran, Ira V. Hiscock, Ruth Hubbard, and Anna Fillmore. Dr. C.-E. A. Winslow, an eminent leader in public health, and Annie Warburton Goodrich, the retired dean of the Yale School of Nursing were also present. The occasion was marked by an address by Thomas Parran, former U. S. Surgeon General, who focused attention on nursing leadership in public health. Speeches by both Parran and Fox addressed the challenges faced at mid-century—challenges of public accountability, of a widespread nursing shortage, and of the need to distribute knowledge and services with both efficiency and compassion. Dr. Parran's talk and an excerpt from Fox's comments that evening were published in Public Health Nursing in December 1949. Selected passages from each of their speeches recall for contemporary readers the concerns of the era and the hopes of those who had dedicated their professional careers to improvement of the health of the public.