Josephine A. Dolan, MS, RN, PdD (Hon.), DNSc (Hon.)
Connecticut Nurses Association
Best known as a nurse historian and educator, Josephine A. Dolan’s name is familiar to generations of nurses who learned of their professional heritage through her lifelong teaching, research, and publications. For 25 years, her textbook on the history of nursing, “Nursing in Society: a Historical Perspective,” was the most widely used text of its kind, influencing students nationally and internationally. Respected and admired by colleagues and students, Dolan, who died in 2004, gave nursing a lasting legacy from which to learn.
Dolan embarked on her career by earning a diploma in nursing from the St. John’s Hospital School in Lowell, MA in 1932. She later completed her master’s degree in nursing from Boston University. Dolan was the first faculty member hired by the University of Connecticut’s new School of Nursing in 1944, where she taught for 35 years. She encouraged nursing students to pursue higher education and advocated for the professionalism of nursing during the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. She helped transform nursing from hospital-based training to an academic-based education and was progressive in her thinking by using state of the art video technology as a heuristic tool.
Awards and honors recognize Dolan’s service to the profession. Among these, the National League for Nursing’s first Distinguished Service Award was conferred on Dolan in 1972. The Connecticut Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau International both established awards in her name recognizing aspects of her excellence in other nurses. In 1974, Rhode Island College honored Dolan’s teaching with an honorary Doctor of Pedagogy. Boston College conferred a Doctor of Nursing Science recognizing her humanistic perspective on nursing. She was appointed to the National League for Nursing’s Committee on Historical Source Materials.
Dolan recognized the importance of collecting and preserving nursing artifacts and used them to illustrate her teaching. Dolan’s impact continues through her extensive collection of historical nursing documents, artifacts, and memorabilia donated to the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing.