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Who Was Edith Nason, R.N.?
By Nancy E. Sheppard

EdithN imageThere is no doubting the countless lives that have been touched – and saved – by Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters. The organization, whose main hospital is anchored in Norfolk next to Eastern Virginia Medical School, boasts state-of-the-art facilities and clinics all over Hampton Roads, including two in Oyster Point which care for the Peninsula’s children. Known not just for their incredible medical expertise, but for their ceaseless caring, compassion, and advocacy of their patients and families, CHKD is a cut above many other children’s hospitals. But who set the precedence for the endless devotion to caring that the hundreds of medical professionals employed by CHKD exhibit each and every day?

That would be the first registered nurse ever employed by the King’s Daughters, Miss Edith Nason R.N.

Miss Nason was born in 1857, though it is unknown where she was raised. As an adult, she graduated from Chicago’s St. Luke’s Hospital’s registered nursing program. Her devotion to helping the poor and invalid was obvious from the moment she entered the profession, serving patients through the city’s Hull- House Diet Kitchen, which cooked meals for the poor and invalid of Chicago. Each Saturday, Miss Nason volunteered her time to give cooking demonstrations in what were called "Sick-Room Cooking.”

In the meantime, The King’s Daughters, a women’s service organization devoted to the betterment of children’s lives, was founded in 1896. That same year, The King’s Daughters decided to expand their services and hire a registered nurse to serve the poor of Norfolk. They raised $602.02 through a subscription program to hire Miss Nason. She readily agreed and moved from Chicago to Norfolk.

She worked six days a week, from 8 A.M. to 7 P.M. In her first year, she made house calls on foot, visiting more that 1,771 patients in the city, 70 of whom were women and 40 were children. Her popularity grew and she could not possibly absorb all of the calls she was receiving. In the second year, The King’s Daughters saved money and purchased her a bicycle and later hired more nurses to work beneath her.

Miss Nason was tirelessly devoted to her patients, and those who could not pay for the care they received from her did not have to pay for it. This set a precedence for the future charitable work of The King’s Daughters mission and devotion to the poor and infirmed.

On May 3, 1912, she did not return a call she received to check on patients. This was highly unusual for the devoted nurse. She was discovered in her bedroom, collapsed on the ground. It was later determined that she died from "organic heart trouble.” The night before her internment, the beloved nurse’s body was constantly attended to by the city’s nurses. An obituary read, "It was a beautiful and silent tribute to one who had spent her life in the effort to relieve suffering.”

Miss Nason was buried in Norfolk’s Elmwood Cemetery, her grave marked by a large, granite cross, with an epitaph stating her position and devotion to The King’s Daughters. Today, the hospital has never forgotten the legacy of Miss Nason nor the character she brought to her job. She has become an icon for all of CHKD’s employees to live up to; a woman who gave everything to relieve the suffering of the city’s infirmed.


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