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Nurse and Emory Philanthropist
Nell Hodgson Woodruff's interest in nursing began during her childhood in Athens, Georgia.
She nursed all of her family's pets back to health when they were ill, and her dolls always were wearing nurses' uniforms. When Nell finished her secondary schooling, she entered nursing training at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens.
On a trip to Atlanta, Nell met Robert Woodruff. Robert became very enamored with Nell, charmed by her beauty and gentle wit. On October 17, 1912, Nell and Robert were married at her parents' home in Athens. Nell did not return to nursing school after their marriage.
However, when the United States entered World War I in 1917, Mrs. Woodruff began volunteering as a nurses' aide with the Red Cross. She took eighty hours of extra training so that she could help train other nurses. As a result, Mrs. Woodruff was authorized to be a nurses' aide at any United States military hospital.
In 1932, Mrs. Woodruff began volunteering at Emory University Hospital. Because of her excellent skills, she was the only volunteer allowed to work in the maternity ward. When the United States went back to war in 1941, Mrs. Woodruff again donated many hours of her time to the Red Cross. She worked as a nurses' aide in hospitals and also recruited other women to nursing.
As the first female member of the Emory Hospital Administration Committee, Mrs. Woodruff helped establish the Emory University School of Nursing. The Emory Nurses' Alumni Association honored Mrs. Woodruff and her dedication to nursing by naming her as an honorary member of the organization in 1946. Others also recognized Mrs. Woodruff's devotion and history of service. She was made an honorary member of the Georgia Nurses Association, and in 1954, President Eisenhower appointed her an American delegate to the World Health Organization.
In 1967, The Emory University Board of Trustees decided to honor Mrs. Woodruff for her years of service and dedication to nursing. The Board renamed the Emory University School of Nursing the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.
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Last updated: October 11, 2007