I met Evelyn Rose Benson at an annual meeting of the Nursing History Archives of the Boston University Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center circa 2001. We quickly became good friends, meeting once each academic semester for dinner or Sunday brunch at a restaurant in Boston or Brookline or at the Harvard University Faculty Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After the meal, we frequently went to Evelyn’s residence, initially her apartment in Boston’s West End and then at her assisted living apartment in Brookline to continue our discussion of the major issues of our discipline–past, present, and future.
As Evelyn turned 99 wonderful years of a marvelous life in 2023, I thought it appropriate to bring this public health nursologist extraordinaire to the attention of all other nursologists who have not had the honor of knowing her.
1924, Born in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, United States. Daughter of Louis A. and Bessie (Osheroff) Rose. Evelyn has also lived in Philadelphia and Havertown, Pennsylvania and in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts
1955, Married Morton Benson.
The mother of two daughters, Rebecca and Miriam
A grandmother and great-grandmother. One grandchild is Adin Kreiger-Benson, who noted that Evelyn’s “lifelong dedication to the field of nursing inspired me to become a nurse practitioner” (Adin Kreiger-Benson, at an event during which he accepted Evelyn’s Leadership Award from the Nursing Foundation of Pennsylvania, November 2022, courtesy of Paula Lasecki, personal communication, March 10, 2023).
1946, Diploma, Jewish Hospital (now Albert Einstein Medical Center) School of Nursing, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Evelyn explained, “Over 80 years ago, our country was attacked, and we were at war. I was halfway through my first year at [Marywood] college [in Scranton, PA]. Soon we heard repeated messages that we faced a critical shortage of nurses. There was an urgent appeal for young women to do their patriotic duty by going into hospital nursing schools. At the end of my school year, I decided to answer the call, and I enrolled in the nurses training school of the Philadelphia Jewish Hospital. At about this same time, the UNITED STATES CADET NURSE CORPS was created to spur the recruitment of student nurses. I enlisted in . . . the Corps (1943-1946), and that is how my pathway to nursing began” (E. Benson, 2022, as cited by Adin Kreiger-Benson, who accepted Evelyn’s Leadership Award from the Nursing Foundation of Pennsylvania, November 2022, courtesy of Paula Lasecki, personal communication, March 10, 2023).
1949, Bachelor of Science in Education (with a certificate in Public Health Nursing), University of Pennsylvania
1955, Master’s in public health (MPH) cum laude, Harvard University in 1955.
- Public Health Nurse, Visiting Nurse Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- World Health Organization Venereal Disease Team, Simla, India
- School Nurse, Philadelphia School District in Pennsylvania
- Senior Public Health Nurse Consultant. Institute for the Study of Venereal Diseases
- Supervising Nurse, Ohio Department of Health
- 1967-1969, Community Nursing Service, Chester, Pennsylvania
- 1970-1977, Widener University, Chester, Pennsylvania
- 1977, State Department grant to study nursing and gerontology in the Russian and Georgian republics of the former U.S.S.R.
- 1977-1978, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 1980-1982, Writer and Consultant
- 1981, Delegate to the White House Conference on Aging
- 1983-1985, Director of Program Development, Community Nursing Service, Norristown, Pennsylvania
LaSalle University School of Nursing, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, first as Academic Advisor to the Nursing Department and later as Assistant Dean.
- 1994, Retired
- 1994-present Scholarly writing and sharing her knowledge of the history of Jewish women in nursing and nurses working in various Eastern European countries as well as her thoughts about the major contemporary nursology issues and challenges
- 2002, Moved to Boston from Pennsylvania
- Last several years, Mentor to many nursology learners who visit Evelyn at her apartment as part of their nursing studies
- Evelyn has established the Nursing Foundation of Pennsylvania Evelyn Benson Nurse Leadership Endowment, which provides scholarships in support of students demonstrating leadership skills in their pursuit of a nursing degree. Funds are for full-time nursing students in their third or fourth year of an accredited BSN, MSN, or doctoral program in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. See
A Recent Award
“In November 2022, Evelyn Rose Benson, RN, received the NFPs [Nursing Foundation of Pennsylvania] Leadership Award in recognition of her 80-year nursing career and many accomplishments. Many colleagues know Evelyn through her publications and educational activities” (Harris, 2022, https://thenfp.org/honor-a-nurse/)/
Following is a video about Evelyn’s accomplishments, which was created by her granddaughter, Tova Benson-Tilsen, as part of the celebration of the Evelyn’s NFP Leadership Award:
Shared by permission of Tova Benson-Tilsen
Clearly, Evelyn has had a most distinguished nursology career. She came to wide attention by means of her many amazing and informative publications. Evelyn’s nursology publications include 2 books and 46 journal or organization newsletter articles and dictionary entries. I have sorted these books and articles into the somewhat arbitrary categories listed below.
Public Health/Community Health Nursing Practice
Benson, E. R., & McDevitt, J. Q. (1976). Community health and nursing practice. Prentice-Hall.
Benson, E. R. (1979). Health promotion for the elderly: Clinical learning experiences in nontraditional settings. Nursing Clinics of North America, 14(4), 577-584.
Benson, E. R., & McDevitt, J. Q. (1982). Health promotion by nursing in care of the elderly. Nursing & Health Care, 3(1), 39-43.
Benson, E. R., & McDevitt, J. Q. (1994). When third party payment determines service: The elderly at risk. Holistic Nursing Practice, 8(2), 28-35.
Benson, E. R., & McDevitt, J. Q. (1989). Home care and the older adult: Illness care versus wellness care. Holistic Nursing Practice, 3(2), 30-38.
Benson, E. (1972). Some thoughts on continuing education for nurses. The Pennsylvania Nurse, 27(1), 14-15.
Benson, E. R. (1977). The consumer’s right to health care: How does the nursing profession respond? Nursing Forum, 16(2), 138-143.
Benson, E. R., & McDevitt, J. Q. (1978). Nursing service and nursing education: Co-action to meet the health needs of the elderly. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 4(3), 20-24.
Benson, E. R. (1982). Attitudes toward the elderly: A survey of recent nursing literature. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 8(5), 279-281.
Benson, E. R. (1986). Nursing and the world’s Columbian exposition [Held in Chicago, IL in 1893]. Nursing Outlook, 34 (2), 88-90.
Benson, E. (1988). Mathilda Scheuer (1890-1974): A biographical sketch. The Pennsylvania Nurse, 43(5), 6, 10.
Benson, E. R. (1990). An early 20th century view of nursing. Nursing Outlook, 38(6), 275-277.
Benson, E. R. (1990). Nineteenth century women, the neophyte nursing profession, and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. In V. Bullough, B. Bullough, & M. P. Stanton (Eds.), Florence Nightingale and her era: A collection of new scholarship (pp. 108-122). Garland Press.
Benson, E. R., & McDevitt, J. Q. (1992). Congregate dining programs for older adults: A personal view. Holistic Nursing Practice, 6(4), 37-43.
Benson, E. R. (1993). Toward social reform, 1894-1913. N. Birnbach & S. Lewenson (Eds.), Legacy of leadership (pp.3-14). National League for Nursing Press.
Benson, E. R. (2003). The next time you are in Tulsa, Oklahoma” [A note on the Florence Nightingale bust), Bulletin of the American Association for the History of Nursing, 78 (Spring), 6.
Benson, E. R. (2004) The next time that you are in Boston, Massachusetts [A note on the Civil War Army Nurses Memorial] Bulletin of the American Association for the History of Nursing 81(6), 6-7.
Benson, E. R. (2005). Commonwealth of Massachusetts pays tribute to Lt. Frances Y. Slanger, WWII Army Nurse. Bulletin of the American Association for the History of Nursing 86(6), 6-7.
Jewish Nurses and Nursing
Benson, E. R. (1987). Josephine Goldmark (1877-1950): A biographic sketch. Public Health Nursing, 4 (1): 48-51.
Benson, E. R. (1990). Hadassah and the nursing connection: Early days. Bulletin of the American Association for the History of Nursing, 26(Spring), 4-6.
Benson, E. R., & Selekman, J. (1992). Jewish women and nursing: An overview of early history. The Journal of New York State Nurses Association, 23(4), 16-19.
Benson, E. R. (1993). Public health nursing and the Jewish connection. Public Health Nursing, 10 (1), 55- 57.
Benson, E. R. (1994). Jewish nurses who shaped history. The Nursing Spectrum, 4(26), 8.
Benson, E. R. (1994). Jewish nurses: A multicultural perspective. The Journal of the New York State Nurses Association, 25 (2), 8-10.
Benson, E. R. (1995). Nursing in Germany: A historical study of the Jewish presence. Nursing History Review, 3(1), 189-200.
Benson, E. R. (1997). Nursing and the Jewish heritage: From antiquity to the present. Bulletin of the American Association for the History of Nursing, 54(Spring), 6-7.
Benson, E. R. (2000). Hilda Solomon. In V. Bullough & L. Sentz (Eds)., American Nursing: A Biographical Dictionary (Vol. 3., pp. 249-250). Springer.
Benson, E. R. (2000). Josephine Goldmark. In V. Bullough & L. Sentz (Eds)., American Nursing: A Biographical Dictionary (Vol. 3., pp.98-101). Springer.
Benson, E. (2000). In memoriam – Hilda Steppe. Bulletin of the American Association for the History of Nursing, 65(Winter), 10-11.
Benson, E. R. (2011). Nursing: United States. In J. R. Baskin (Ed.), The Cambridge Dictionary of Judaism and Jewish culture (p. 462). Cambridge University Press
Benson, E. R. (2001) As we see ourselves: Jewish women in nursing. Center Nursing Publishing.
Benson, E. R. (1969). Vignette of nursing in Yugoslavia. Nursing Outlook, 17(4), 36.
Benson, E. (1971). Nurse to nurse contact on the international scene. International Nursing Review, 18(3): 281-286.
Benson, E. R. (1973). Family planning services in Yugoslavia,” International Nursing Review, 20(5), 142-146.
Benson, E. (1974). Nursing in Serbia: Early days. American Journal of Nursing, 74(3), 472-274.
Benson, E. R. (1976). Care for the elderly in Yugoslavia,” International Nursing Review 23(2), 55-56.
Benson, E. R. (1978). Observations on health care for the elderly in the USSR. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 4(5), 18-20.
Benson, E. R. (1984). A note on Ellen Key’s Florence Nightingale and Bertha von Suttner: Two women at war against war”, Cassandra Radical Feminist Nurses News Journal 2(3): 10-12.
Benson, E. R. (1984). A nurse’s mission to Siberia: Kate Marsden 1869-1931. Bulletin of the American Association for the History of Nursing, 6(Fall), 1, 4.
Benson, E. R. (1986). East-West scientific and cultural contacts: Implications for nursing. The Pennsylvania Nurse, 41(8), 9-10. [United States and Soviet Union]
Benson, E. (1989). Area nurse examines International Nurses’ Day in Yugoslavia. The Pennsylvania Nurse, 44(2), 7-11.
Benson, E. R. (1991). The legend of the Maiden of Kosovo and nursing in Serbia. Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 23 (1), 57-59.
Benson, E. R. (1991). Some thoughts on F. B. Smith’s Florence Nightingale: Reputation and power. Bulletin of the American Association of for the History of Nursing 29, 6-7.
Benson, E. R. (1992). On the other side of the battle: Russian nurses in the Crimean War. Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 24(1), 65-68.
Benson, E. R. (1993). Florence Nightingale in verse. The Pennsylvania Nurse, 48(5): 14-15.
Benson, E. R. (1993). Reaching out to our nursing colleagues in the former USSR: A review of recent cross-cultural experiences. The Pennsylvania Nurse, 48(9), 20-21.
Benson, E. R. (2003). The next time you are in Brussels Belgium. [A note about Edith Cavell]. Bulletin of the American Association for the History of Nursing 79(Summer), 5-6.
Evelyn co-authored the series of books about language listed here.
Benson, M., Benson, E., & Ilson, R. (1986) BBI combinatory dictionary of English: A guide to word combinations. John Benjamins Publishing Company. (New Printing, 1993)
Benson, M,. Benson, E., & Ilson, R. F. (1986). Lexicographic description of English. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Benson, M., Benson, E., & Ilson, R. (1997) BBI dictionary of English word combinations (2nd ed., revised) John Benjamins Publishing Company
Benson, M., Benson, E., & Ilson, R. (2009). The BBI combinatory dictionary of English: Your guide to collocations and grammar (3rd ed., expanded and revised by R. Ilson). John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Benson, M., Benson, E., Ilson, R., & Young, R. (1991). Using the BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English: A workbook with exercises. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
The Evelyn Benson Collection, which is housed at the Center for Jewish History in New York. NY, “consists of documents pertaining to the research of Evelyn Benson on German Jewish nurses during the Third Reich. Folders one, two and seven include brief correspondence between Benson, Ilse Beck, Doris Grey and Hilda Westenberg. Folder three includes various documents on Ruth Knopp, including photographs from Knopp’s time at the Jewish hospital in Berlin, a short biography, and correspondence between Knopp and Benson. Folder four includes an interview with Frieda Lefeber, correspondence between Lefeber and Benson, and a newspaper clipping on Lefeber’s life story.
Folders five and six include various documents pertaining to Thea Levinsohn (née Wolf). Folder five contains extensive correspondence between Levinsohn and Benson on the history of Jewish women in nursing and on Levinsohn’s work in Egypt and Israel during and after World War II. Some other correspondence related to the writings of Levinsohn and scholarly work of Benson is also included. Folder six contains various documents pertaining to the life and work of Levinsohn, including photographs and photocopies of official documents from the Jewish hospital in Frankfurt am Main, essays written by Levinsohn on her experience as a nurse, photocopies of newspaper clippings and reviews of the book NOT IN VAIN: AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE by Ada Aharoni on Levinsohn’s life.” (https://archives.cjh.org/repositories/5/resources/4794)
I would like to thank Rebecca Benson for information about Evelyn’s background, education, and career; Miriam Benson, for compiling the list of Evelyn’s publications; Rebecca Benson and Miriam Benson for their systematic review and editing of the penultimate version of this blog; the staff of the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) Healey Library for securing almost all of Evelyn’s publications via inter-library loan (a few other of the publications were available through the UMB Healey Library’s subscriptions for nursing journals); and Paula Lasecki of the Nursing Foundation of Pennsylvania for providing a photo of Evelyn Benson and speeches and photos about the Foundation’s Leadership Award presented to Evelyn in 2022.
Evelyn Rose Benson. https://prabook.com/web/evelyn.benson/248706 (Note that the photo is NOT of Evelyn Rose Benson)
4 thoughts on “Evelyn Rose Benson: Public Health Nursologist Extraordinaire”
Evelyn makes me proud to be a nurse. Thank you for sharing her story.
A true pioneer and beacon for nurses everywhere
Thank you for sharing about Evelyn Rose Benson. Truly a Guardian of the Discipline and inspiration for us all, especially nurses in public health.
What a lovely piece of writing. This is history worth recounting! Thank you so much for sharing Evelyn’s incredible work.