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Women at Work: Sarah Nicholl, RN

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published in the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, October 12, 2018.

At 29, Sarah Nicholl was not as young as her classmates when she arrived at the Exeter Nurse’s Training School in 1917. Born in 1888, in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, she’d been recruited by the school, as other student nurses were, specifically because she was “from away” and would therefore be a bit detached from the local patients. Her affiliation with Exeter Hospital would last four decades.

At the time of her retirement in 1957, the Portsmouth Herald noted, “After graduation (which occurred in 1920) she remained as a regular duty nurse, then was advanced to head nurse, supervisor, assistant superintendent and finally superintendent.” She did all this by 1925 – roughly a promotion every year until she reached the top administrative post at the age of 34.

The job of superintendent was generally considered a woman’s position. Filled since the early d…

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