Enlightened Charity


Enlightened Charity is a lost history important to the identity of professional American nurses. Throughout history, nurses have been innovators in health reform creating models of safe and accessible health care for all. Enlightened Charity documents the pioneering work of American Sisters of Charity nurses in the 19th century who sustained a centuries-old holistic healing tradition of their French predecessors in caring for the poor, sick, and mentally ill. Martha Mathews Libster and Sister Betty Ann McNeil give us an intimate portrait of one Sister in particular, Sister-Nurse Matilda Coskery, who during her 39-year nursing career from 1831 until 1870, partnered with medical consultants to create hospitals, clinical training programs for medical students, treatment programs, and standards of nursing care which earned her the distinction by physicians, nurses, and the public as an "oracle" in nursing care, particularly of the mentally ill. Sister Matilda documented her expertise in a textbook for her students which she titled "Advice's Concerning the Sick". This masterful treatise on the science and "blessed art" of nursing pre-dating Notes On Nursing by Florence Nightingale is published here in its entirety for the first time in the history of American nursing with commentary by the authors. In its impeccable scholarship, Enlightened Charity repeals the myths about early nurses and documents why Sister Matilda and the Sisters of Charity were models for professional nursing in the nineteenth century. The Sisters' values of humility, simplicity, and charity and their intentional devotion to the spiritual as well as the physical needs of patients propelled them into a judicious, science-based care that won them national and international acclaim- though they did not seek it. 


Highlights of Enlightened Charity:


  • Includes the full text of a never-before-published nursing fundamentals book, "Advice's Concerning the Sick", which predates Nightingale's Notes on Nursing.
  • Examines the role of early nurses as innovators in health reform. 
  • Defines the evidence-based practice and critical thinking of 19th-century nurses.
  • Documents the traditions and historical origins of holistic nursing. 
  • Depicts formal nursing education from 1633-1870. 
  • Details the entrepreneurial leadership skills and successful nurse-physician collaboration of the Sisters of Charity nurses. 
  • Portrays the foundations of American psychiatric nursing and the pioneering work of Sister Matilda in the care of the mentally ill. 
  • Clarifies nursing's historical connections with women in religious life. 
  • Reveals the Sisters of Charity's enlightened approach to patient care and the power of nurses' simple acts of kindness and charity. 


Enlightened Charity is suggested for the following courses: 


  • Nursing and Women's History 


  • Fundamentals in Nursing 
  • Professional Issues in Nursing 
  • Leadership and Management 
  • Psychiatric Nursing 
  • Holistic Nursing 
  • Religious History
  • Philosophy and Theory in Nursing


4.0 out of 5 starsI like this author and I like that she writes with ...

By OAF on December 30, 2016

I like this author and I like that she writes with a respect for historical accuracy. Romanticizing nursing history does the profession no favors and in fact, discredits an honorable profession.


  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Golden Apple Publications (April 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0975501828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0975501825
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)


Enlightened Charity

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