Nursing Caps Collection

Photo from pamphlet, Choose a Cap of Distinction

Nurses’ caps, now rare in the US, were once a distinct part of the nurse’s image.

The origin of the cap isn’t clear. When “trained nursing” started in the 1850s women usually wore caps indoors. Female servants also wore caps as part of their uniform. However the tradition of nursing caps began, they persisted as part of a nurses’ uniform in the US until the 1970s when fewer nurses started wearing them. They were impractical and inconsistent with the image of a knowledge-based profession.

US nurses wore the cap of their training school or university throughout their career. Thus one hospital could have a multitude of caps being worn.

The caps in the Midwest Nursing History Research Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago have been collected from different sources; many came from nurses at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago and showed that the nurses came from hospitals and universities all over the world.

Many of the caps in the collection are yellowed and some are stained. They represent years of nursing work, many spent in the busy wards of the old Cook County Hospital.

Brigid Lusk, PhD, RN, FAAN
Director, MNHRC

Download PDF File for complete collection