The University of Maryland School of Nursing was founded in 1889 by Louisa Parsons, a graduate of the Nightingale Fund School at St. Thomas' Hospital in London. UMSON was originally associated with University Hospital, and early students spent a majority of their time working in the wards in addition to studying in the classroom. The School grew during the early decades of the 20th century, and school officials, faculty members, and alumni constantly sought to improve standards and advocate for the nursing profession to state and federal officials.
By the 1940s and 1950s, the School of Nursing — guided by its first dean, Florence Gipe — began to transition away from a training school associated with a hospital to an independent academic institution. The curriculum steadily changed during this period to meet the new, higher standards as well as keep up with the changes in the medical profession. Master’s degrees were first offered in 1955, while the first doctoral programs were launched in 1979.
In the 1970s, the School began to emphasize nursing research in addition to its education and practical roles. In 2002, the School opened a new, state-of-the-art building to accommodate its ever expanding numbers of faculty members, staff, and students. Today, the School is one of the premier nursing schools in the country.
The Nursing Pin
When Bellevue Hospital in New York started a nurses’ training school in 1873, a board member suggested “a badge for the probationers and the same with a medal attached for the head nurses.” Out of this idea came the concept of a nursing school pin. Bellevue presented its first pins — the first nursing school pins — in 1880.
The University of Maryland School of Nursing opened in 1889, and the tradition of a class pin began in 1894, when students selected a design by Tiffany’s of New York. None of these original pins survive, but the official School of Nursing pin is a modified version of the original design.
The design features the St. George’s cross in gold. In the center of the cross is a variant of the bowl of Hygeia, the serpent representing wisdom, entwined around a glass that is symbolic of the “wise presiding over decoctions of medicine.” Though commonly a symbol used by pharmacists, the variant on the pin is the snake design found on the wand of Asclepius, a symbol used by the nursing profession. The bowl of Hygeia is set on a field of black surrounded by gold with a maroon circle around it containing the words, “University of Maryland School of Nursing.”
While subsequent classes had different class pins designed, when the School of Nursing Alumni Association (founded in 1897) decided on a pin to represent the Alumni Association, they chose that original 1894 design as the model. Until 1970, the pin was only allowed to be worn by paid members of the Alumni Association. Graduates paid dues to be included in the organization, and only then were they permitted to wear the pin. Only one jeweler in Baltimore was allowed to make the pins, and purchasers had to show proof of Alumni Association membership to purchase one. This pin looked the same as today’s UMSON pin, but with the words “University of Maryland Alumnae Association” inscribed on it. Many members of the Alumni Association had their initials or name, as well as class year, engraved on the back of their pin, and it was a cherished part of every alumna's uniform.
In 1970, the Alumni Association offered the design of the alumni pin to the dean of the School of Nursing to become the official nursing pin. It is now awarded to all graduates of the University of Maryland School of Nursing.
The Nursing Cap
The University of Maryland School of Nursing cap, known as the “Flossie,” was designed in 1892 by the School’s first superintendent, Louisa Parsons, who modeled it after one of Florence Nightingale’s own caps. The elaborate point d’esprit lace was made in England and required special care to maintain. Convinced that too much time and effort went into making and laundering the lace Flossier, in 1900 then-Superintendent Katharine A. Taylor simplified the design and designated it as the graduate cap.
The Flossie was UMSON’s official graduate cap and served for decades as a symbol of the wearer’s professionalism and the School’s connection to the founder of modern nursing. Several traditions surround the Flossie at UMSON: In the early years, a ceremony known as “capping” took place as a rite of passage. From the late 1950s onward, an event was held for the seniors, who were taught how to string their Flossie caps in the final weeks before graduation. In later years, a fluting ceremony was held after the six-week probationary period for each student nurse. If she was progressing satisfactorily, she was allowed to flute her cap and continue her studies. By the 1970s, the fluting tradition continued, though it no longer marked the end of the probationary period. The fluting banquet grew into an involved night that included skits, songs, laughter, and food, in addition to seniors helping the juniors learn how to flute their caps.