“…I was thinking, when doing this scrubbing, of Miss Florence Nightingale’s barracks…”: A Local Typhoid Epidemic in the Correspondence between a Bulgarian and an American Nurse in 1932 (Nevena Sendova and Clara Noyes)





20th Century, Clara Noyes, Nevena Sendova, Nursing History, Sofia School of Nursing, Typhoid fever


One of the most important epidemics in Bulgaria in the 1930s was typhoid fever. The research focuses on the description of this disease in a small town in Southern Bulgaria in 1932 in a letter written by a leading Bulgarian nurse, the Director of the Sofia School of Nursing, Nevena Sendova (1895–1987), to Clara Noyes (1869–1936), National Director Nursing Service of the Red Cross in the USA. Together with two of her colleagues and four students from the School of Nursing in Sofia, Nevena Sendova came to the small town of Bratsigovo in order to support local hygiene and anti-epidemic measures and to teach the accompanying students. At that time, the number of professional nurses in Bulgaria was small and there were no local nurses in this town. The letter is a rare egodocument about a local epidemic from the point of view of a nurse. It is part of a large regular correspondence between the directors of the Sofia School of Nursing and the leading nurses of the American Red Cross. These exchanges continued for about 15 years after American Red Cross nurses supported the reform of the Sofia School of Nursing in the 1920s along the same lines as the American education model. While describing the nurses’ activities in the two hospitals of the small town during the typhoid epidemic, Nevena Sendova also described the poverty of the local population, its hygiene habits, and the local beliefs and superstitions. Moreover, she recounted what local people were saying about the illness, a topic she considered she ought to bring to Clara Noyes’ attention.