|Frances Payne Bolton (1885-1977)
devoted her life to the service of humanity as a philanthropist, health care reformer, and
congresswoman. She became nursing's most influential nurse layperson through her
endowment of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, her congressional legislation,
and her strong advocacy of compassionate care of the sick. As she wrote of the
layperson's role in 1925, "So it would seem have a very definite place to fill --
much to do -- we laymen whose interests have led into professional fields."
Bolton is representative of an era when a person of means and personal commitment could
have a fundamental impact on the development of a professional discipline. A brief
examination of her life reveals not only her passion, but also her wide-ranging influence
on 20th Century political and social life.
As a debutante at the turn of the century, she became more interested in helping "suffering humanity" and less in enjoying the prerogatives of her station in life. Her experience accompanying a Visiting Nurse on her rounds through some of Cleveland's worst tenements left a vivid impression. To Bolton, a nurse "brought light and easement, intelligence and understanding where there was darkness." Because of this early experience, Bolton not only became actively involved in nursing education, but also supported many professional nursing organizations, including the Visiting Nurse Association, the National Organization for Public Health Nursing, the Frontier Nursing Service and the National of Colored Graduate Nurses.
In 1907 Frances Payne married Chester Castle Bolton and the couple produced four children: Charles, Oliver, Kenyon, and Elizabeth, who died shortly after childbirth. Always intensely interested in education, in the 1920s the Bolton's gave the land adjacent to Franchester, their estate in Lyndhurst, to Hawken School. Chester, a Republican congressman from Cleveland's 22nd district, died in 1939 and Frances served out his term, then won his seat in her own right in 1940. The first elected congresswoman from Ohio, she remained in Congress for 29 years, devoting her energies largely to nursing and foreign affairs.
During World War II Bolton sponsored the Bolton Act to address the critical shortage of nurses and to protect the "health of the nation." The Bolton Act played a key role in expanding, subsidizing, and improving nursing education in the United States through federal funding. Because payments were made directly to nursing schools rather than hospitals, the bill helped to reinforce the priority of educational goals.
This act created the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, which graduated a total of 125,000 nurses for the nation's war effort. In 1945, 85 percent of all nursing students in the United States were part of the Cadet Corps. Being a Cadet provided the nurse with military status and compensation equal to that of a full commissioned officer.