Olivia Fiorilli

«An Organism Scientifically and Practically Perfect». The Modern Hospital and the Nurse in the Discourse of the Physicians of the Early 20th Century

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Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Italian physicians started their campaign to conquer the hospital - not yet a fully medicalized institution - and transform it into a modern «health factory». In order to make the old hospital into a place where the «admirable progresses of medicine and surgery» could shine and medical authority could reign, physicians thought that nursing had to be modernized. Physicians developed their discourse on modern nursing in the frame of the utopia of the «machine à guérir». In the aftermath of World War I they arrived to the conclusion that middle class women were the ones who could fully embody the ideal of the modern nurse. This ideal figure came to be represented as a key instrument for the modernization of the hospital. This article analyses, with a gendered perspective, the entanglement between the utopia of the «health factory», the modernization of nursing and its feminization in the discourse of the physicians in the first thirty years of the 20th century.


  • Biopolitics
  • Hospital
  • Nursing


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