Hat Lore

The Nurse's Cap: Symbol of Authority or Servitude?

Student Nurse and Teacher,
Mack Training School
St. Catharines, Ontario, ca. 1902
Photo courtesy of St. Catharines General Hospital
(known prior to 1924 as the St-Catharines General and Marine Hospital)
Originally, nurses wore the practical, white, pleated cap and apron of the maidservant, signifying respectability, cleanliness and servitude. As the nursing profession gained recogni-tion, nurses' caps became less utilitarian and more symbolic, a badge of office and achievement, perched on top of the head.

Since the Second World War, the nurse's cap has lost much of its significance. The "capping ceremony," a ritual in which a junior nurse receives her first cap, has virtually disappeared. Today, there is controversy within the medical profession about nursing uniforms. Many nurses do not agree with mandatory dress codes. They argue that other health-care professionals do not depend on uniforms for their authority.

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