Cradle to Grave: The Color White VII

The White that Binds (Pinning Ceremony) mixed media & collage on paper. JParadisi 2010 SOLD

The White That Binds (Pinning Ceremony) 10″ x 13″ is available for purchase online through Anka Gallery.

The color white is prominent in traditionally female rituals and ceremonies of western culture. Nursing, with its iconic white uniform, began as a woman’s occupation and stayed that way for many years.

During pinning ceremonies nurses usually recite The Nightingale Pledge, which was not written by Florence Nightingale.  Arranged by a Mrs. Lystra E. Gretter and a Committee for the Farrand Training School for Nurses, Detroit in 1893,  the original pledge reads:

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

Another version, author unknown, expands the responsibilities of the profession:

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to faithfully practice my profession of nursing.  I will do all in my power to make and maintain the highest standards and practices of my profession. I will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping in the practice of my calling.  I will assist the physician in his work and will devote myself to the welfare of my patients, my family, and my community. I will endeavor to fulfill my rights and privileges as a good citizen and take my share of responsibility in promoting the health and welfare of the community. I will constantly endeavor to increase my knowledge and skills in nursing and to use them wisely.  I will zealously seek to nurse those who are ill wherever they may be and whenever they are in need.

I will be active in assisting others in safeguarding and promoting the health and happiness of mankind.”


The original pledge links purity to nursing. Both pledges refer to God, and the color white is worn during the pinning ceremony. Each pledge has strong expectations for nurses to fulfill in caring for other. The phrase “I will endeavor to fulfill my rights and privileges as a good citizen” in the second to last paragraph of the second version is unclear about what “rights and privileges” nurses may expect in return for this dedication. Women did not have the right to vote in the United States until the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920. What were the “rights and privileges” of women when these pledges were written? What rights and privileges does the color white represent for nurses and women today?

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About jparadisirn

JParadisi RN, OCN finds inspiration where science, humanity and art converge, creating compelling images as both a writer and a painter. She is the author of JParadisiRN, and blogs frequently for TheONC.org, and Off the Charts, the blog of the American Journal of Nursing.
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3 Responses to Cradle to Grave: The Color White VII

  1. Pingback: Color Coded for Easy Identification « JParadisi RN's Blog

  2. Pingback: JParadisi RN Painting Featured in March Issue of AJN ‘Art of Nursing’ | JParadisi RN's Blog

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