When forty-three-year-old Sophia French Palmer became Superintendent of Rochester City Hospital, she came to an institution in turmoil. Her predecessor had been removed for "the good of the hospital," the Nursing School was in disarray, and the hospital had a deficit. Miss Palmer was born May 26, 1853, in Milton Massachusetts. She graduated from the Boston Training School of Nurses (Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing) in 1878. For the next eighteen months, she did private duty in Philadelphia for the noted neurologist S. Weir Mitchell. In 1883, she was appointed Superintendent of St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where she established a school of nursing. She returned to Boston in 1886 as Charge Nurse at Massachusetts General. During this period, she obtained post-graduate experience.
Her next position was Superintendent of Nurses at Garfield Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. Overcoming opposition from the city's physicians, she established the hospital's Training School.
In 1896 she became Superintendent of Rochester City Hospital. Miss Palmer was in the forefront of professionalism and nursing reform. She was instrumental in the organization of the New York State Nurses Association and the Genesee Valley Nurses Association. Through her energies, legislation was passed in New York State for registration of nurses. The title "Registered Nurse" was coined during an alumnae meeting at Rochester City Hospital. She was appointed the first President of the New York Board of Examiners. In 1900, she became the first editor of The American Journal of Nursing. She would hold this position until her death in 1920. (Courtesy A. J. N.)