Hers was a commanding presence: her manner exacting, appearance striking, credentials impeccable, and impact unquestioned. Isabel Hampton Robb, the first superintendent of nurses at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and principal of its brand-new nurse training school, set in stone a path for generations of nurses even yet to come.
From the start, in 1889, she ran the place with military precision. Having wowed interviewers with her intelligence and experience as a practicing nurse and a superintendent (besting 80 other applicants), Isabel Hampton in short order set about creating a program that built excellent caregivers but also demanded that they be leaders and innovators: Hopkins Nurses. This by-the-book approach soon became one. She wrote Nursing: Its Principles and Practices, published in 1893.
Born in Welland, Ontario in August 26, 1859, Isabel Adams Hampton had a brief career as a public school teacher before entering Bellevue Training School for Nurses in New York in 1881. Upon graduation in 1883, she substituted for the superintendent of nurses in the Woman’s Hospital in New York, then worked two years at St. Paul’s House in Rome, which offered care to wealthy travelers. Back in the States, she served as a private duty nurse before becoming superintendent of the Illinois Training School for Nurses at Cook County Hospital in Chicago in 1886. Then, it was on to Johns Hopkins.
Her term at Hopkins might have been longer if not for love. In 1894, she married Hunter Robb, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the Johns Hopkins Hospital (Florence Nightingale sent the wedding bouquet) and the couple relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, where they had two sons.
Hampton Robb remained active in nursing affairs, serving as the first president of what would become the American Nurses Association and helping to establish the first postgraduate collegiate program for nurses at Columbia University. She was killed in a Cleveland streetcar accident in 1910, at age 49.
Today, the Isabel Hampton Robb Society established in her memory provides a critical foundation of support for the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.