The Black Bag


Correspondence to:

Marilyn Givens King, Graduate Nursing Programs, Kennesaw State University, WellStar School of Nursing, 1000 Chastain Road, MD# 4102, Kennesaw, GA 30144-5591. E-mail:


In the early- to mid-twentieth century, stories about nursing practice submitted by nurses frequently appeared in Public Health Nursing. The article reprinted here is an example of this genre of publications. Originally published in April 1936, this article tells the story of a day in the work of one public health nurse as she moves about the city making home visits. In this article, Snow (1936) used personification of the iconic black bag to tell her story. Using this technique she brings to life the nuances of her day, the personalities of her patients, and the importance of the black bag to the work of public health nurses. What did nurses learn from stories such as this one? Themes embedded in this story reflect the role of the Public Health Nurse (PHN), as well as the environment in which she worked. For instance, in this story we learn that not only was the PHN a welcomed visitor in the homes of families struggling with health problems, but that she brought order out of chaos, as illustrated in “The New Arrival”. “The Black Bag” also highlights the humor nurses experienced in their encounters with families, as well as the pathos in other situations. Stories served as a vehicle for nurses to share and learn about both the common elements of their work, as well as the unique features related to location and environment, such as rural and urban locales.