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Updated 4:00 PM May 18, 2004



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Doll faces: Exhibit celebrates nursing

Linda Strodtman, a clinical nurse specialist and assistant professor of nursing, has combined her 30-year interest in doll collecting with her work in nursing history to create an exhibit at University Hospital.

(Photo by Linda Strodtman)
Images from the Nursing Dolls exhibit at the Taubman Center. Above: Quintuplet dolls with their nurse by the Freundlich Co. Below: Assistant professor of nursing and exhibit curator Linda Strodtman shows Larry Warren, director and CEO of U-M Hospitals and Health Centers, the doll Nola and her nurse. Bottom: A World War I nurse with her baby patient by a German doll maker.

(Photo by Kathi Talley, Gifts of Art)

(Photo by Linda Strodtman)

A display of 100 nurse dolls will be featured through June 16 in the Taubman Center north gallery. The exhibit illustrates the popular image of the nurse—from Florence Nightingale's role in the Crimean War, to Clara Barton's Civil war work, to World War I and II nurse heroines, to advertising dolls such a Miss Curity in the 1940s and 50s, to television series celebrity nurse Julia (played by Diahann Carroll) in the 1980s, to modern and often unrealistic images of nurses as portrayed by Barbie dolls.

"Dolls, which are 'child's play things in human form,' can be used to teach history since they reflect to a great extent happenings in everyday life," Strodtman says. "Though popularly conceived of as impassive and mute, dolls provide a rich source of information about people and their roles and relationships in life."

The exhibit is made possible through the U-M Health System's (UMHS) Gifts of Art program. From 5-8 p.m. May 17, Strodtman and members of the Ann Arbor Doll Collectors, the Nursing History Society of U-M and the Community Youth Program at UMHS will be docents to the exhibit.

Omissions in the doll market also are important, she says, such as the lack of any male nurse dolls other than wartime medics in the G.I. Joe dolls.

"The popular image of [nurses] as angels of mercy and war heroines is often countered by exaggerated roles as physician helpers and sex symbols rather than the compassionate, intelligent, autonomous professionals that care for Americans in all kinds of settings and over the continuum of life from birth to death," Strodtman says.

Besides the omission of men in nurse dolls, there also is a paucity of dolls representing the ethnic diversity of nurses and, again, the doll represents the reality of life, she says.

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