Preserving Our Past, Capitalizing on the Present, Embracing the Future

Mrs. Dita H. Kinney
1st Superintendent, Army Nurse Corps

© Mary T. Sarnecky

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Dita Hopkins Kinney was born in New York City on 13 September 1855 to C.T. and Myra Burnett Hopkins, Kinney studied as a young woman at Mills College in California. She married in 1874, gave birth to one son and was widowed only four years later. She then attended the Massachusetts General Hospital training school, graduating in 1892. After graduation, Kinney devoted her time to teaching child care in New England and also gave classes to prepare assistants to trained nurses. Kinney also did private duty nursing and worked in several institutions--the Almshouse on Long Island in Boston Harbor, the City and County Hospital of St. Paul, Minnesota and the French Hospital in San Francisco, California.1

On 10 September 1898, Kinney signed a contract with the Army and began her career at the general hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco, California. It was a false start. Just six days later the Army annulled Kinney's contract, releasing her to superintend a Red Cross convalescent home for soldiers in Oakland, California.2 Soon this home closed and Kinney returned to French Hospital for eight months. "Finding conditions impossible" there, she signed another contract on 18 October 1899 and worked as a nurse in the operating room at the Presidio of San Francisco.3 The Army then assigned Kinney as the chief nurse of a proposed 1,800 bed hospital which would be located at Nagasaki, Japan. The hospital mission would be to care for the allied casualties from the Boxer uprising in China. When events caused plans for that hospital to be abandoned, Kinney reported as chief nurse at the general hospital for consumptives at Fort Bayard, New Mexico. After a brief sojourn in the southwest, she traveled east to work with Anita Newcomb McGee in the surgeon general's office and accepted the superintendent's position. After just three years of service in the Army, Kinney assumed the responsibilities of the superintendent of the Corps on 16 March 1901.4

Following her resignation as superintendent in July 1909, Kinney pursued postgraduate studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and subsequently became superintendent of a hospital in Gloucester, Massachusetts. She was forced to abandon her work in 1914 due to "breaking health" which "forbade exertion." During World War I, Kinney taught Red Cross Home Nursing classes in Maine. She died in Bangor, Maine, on 16 April 1921 and was buried next to her husband in Trinity Cemetery in New York City.5 

  1. "Mrs. Dita H. Kinney," American Journal of Nursing 1 (March 1901), 403-404; Eileen M. Danis & Rosemary T. McCarthy, "Dita Hopkins Kinney, 1854-1921," in Vern L. Bullough, Olga Maranjian Church, & Alice P. Stein, American Nursing, A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Garland Publishing Company, 1988): 201-204.
  2. Ibid.; Julia C. Stimson & Associates, "History and Manual of the Army Nurse Corps," The Army Medical Bulletin Number 41 (Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania: Medical Field Service School, 1937): 86.
  3. "Mrs. Dita H. Kinney," 403; Stimson & Associates, 86.
  4. Dita H. Kinney, "Department of Army Nursing," The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review 26 (April 1901), 212.
  5. "Nursing News & Announcements, Obituaries," American Journal of Nursing 21 (July 1921): 764; "Further Information About Dita H. Kinney," American Journal of Nursing 21 (November 1921): 122.