ANA Hall of Fame Inductee
Committed to strengthening the profession of nursing and the American Nurses Association as its professional organization, Elizabeth Kerr Porter was a leader in nursing education and an advocate for nurses' rights. She spoke out in support of economic security for nurses and defended their right to organize for the purpose of achieving that security.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an accomplished pianist, Porter's early career was as a teacher. Following the death of her husband, she chose to become a nurse, entered the Western Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing, and received her diploma in 1930. In 1935, she earned a bachelor of science degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, and the following year, a master of science degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1946, she fulfilled the requirements for a doctorate in education, also from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, where she coordinated the advanced clinical nursing program and achieved the rank of professor. Appointed to the faculty of the Francis Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University in 1949, she was professor and director of the graduate program in nursing and was named dean in 1953.
At the time of her appointment as dean, Porter was in her second term of office as president of the American Nurses Association, an organization of approximately 175,000 members. During her presidency, she played a pivotal role in: strengthening the association's economic security program; improving employment conditions for nurses; increasing nursing representation on national boards and commissions; eliminating racial restrictions to membership in the association; forming a National Student Nurses' Council; and consolidating the six existing national nursing organizations into two major associations.
In 1954, Porter was honored with a Pennsylvania Ambassadorial Award given in recognition of her achievements. In addition, she was the recipient of the Shirley Titus Award from the American Nurses Association, the Florence Nightingale Medal from the International Red Cross, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. She served as president of the Ohio Nurses Association form 1958 to 1960, vice president of the American Nurses Foundation, and board member of the National Health Council. An expert educational administrator, Porter's contributions and unparalleled leadership are legendary. She believed that nursing, through its professional organization, could be an instrument for change and reminded nurses in 1952 that, "the American Nurses Association can be only as strong as individuals are strong for collective action, and that strength must be fostered in district and state groups."