The Nurse Romance Novel Collection consists of over 425 novels held in the UWM Libraries’ Special Collections that have nurses as central characters. These works were written for both young and adult audiences from the 1950s to the 1970s, often reflecting stereotypes about nurses, usually negative, that are held in the popular imagination. These works raise issues concerning the image of nurses and the nursing profession in popular culture, and the books that serve to reinforce not only popular misconceptions of nurses, but of women generally, and professional women in particular. They also raise more general questions of gender construction in Western society, reader expectations, and societal/historical contexts that allow for such presentations to persist to this day.
The bulk of the collection of nurse romance novels was donated to Special Collections in 2005 by artist, photographer, and former UWM Art Professor Leslie Bellavance (currently director of the School of Art and Art History at James Madison University). Professor Bellavance started collecting these publications as part of her own research on popular-culture presentations of nurses for her visual work. The Nurse Romance collection augments the UWM American Nursing History Collection in Special Collections, which was established in 1995 through a donation from the UWM Center for Nursing History.