Journal of American Studies

Healthy Heroines: Sue Barton, Lillian Wald, Lavinia Lloyd Dock and the Henry Street Settlement

a1 Department of Arts, Brunel University, 300 St. Margaret Road, Twickerham, Middlesex TW1 1PT


Sue Barton is the fictional redhaired nursing heroine of a series of novels written for young women. Recalled by several generations of women readers with affection, Sue Barton has remained in print ever since the publication of the first novel in the series: Sue Barton, Student Nurse, written by Helen Dore Boylston, was published in America in 1936. Neither the covers of her four novels now in paperback, nor the publisher's catalogue entry, however, acknowledge Sue Barton's age: “Sue Barton Series – The everyday stories of redheaded Sue Barton and hospital life as she progresses from being a student nurse through her varied nursing career.”

The catalogue entry for the series and the novels' paperback covers now claim Sue Barton as a contemporary young woman, poised for romance. Sue is, however, a pre-war heroine, and very much located within an American history and tradition of nursing. With her close contemporary, Cherry Ames, Sue Barton is one of the nursing heroines who were to establish a genre in popular fiction for young women, the career novel, and, more particularly, the nursing career novel.


1 Some of the research for this article was carried out for Brave New Causes, Deborah Philips and Ian Haywood (Cassell, 1998). With thanks to Ian Haywood, Jay Kleinberg and Maureen Moran.