Jane Arminda Delano was born in 1862 to George and Mary Ann Wright Delano in Montour Falls, New York (some sources give Townsend, NY, as her birthplace). George Delano was a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War and died of yellow fever in Louisiana and was buried there. Jane never knew her father. She attended Cook Academy and after completing her education, taught school for a short time.
Jane then decided to become a nurse and traveled to New York City where she enrolled in the Bellevue Hospital School of Nursing and graduated in 1886. Jane loved being a nurse. She used to say that “I can't say that anything romantic or sentimental determined me to be a nurse… I think the nurse's profession is a fine one, and I like it."
After graduating from Bellevue, Jane traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, where she became superintendent of nurses at the Sandhills Hospital. She arrived just as a yellow fever epidemic was raging through Jacksonville. Though some scientists suspected the disease was spread via mosquitoes, this had not yet been confirmed. Jane, however, directed that screens be placed over open windows and mosquito netting be hung in patient care areas and in the nurses’ quarters.
Jane went to Arizona after the yellow fever epidemic ended in Jacksonville. She became a nurse at the copper mining camp in Bisbee. Typhoid fever had reached epidemic levels. Jane nursed the typhoid patients for three years. Her time in Arizona convinced Jane that people living on the frontier, particularly in rural or isolated areas, needed health education and services. Before she left Bisbee, Jane was instrumental in organizing a hospital there.
1891 saw Jane Delano back on the East Coast, where she became superintendent of nurses at the University Hospital in Philadelphia. Five years after that, she moved to Buffalo, NY, with the intention of attending medical school. Instead of becoming a doctor, however, Jane went to New York City, where she attended the New York School of Civics and Philanthropy and continued her nursing career. During the Spanish American War, Jane joined the American Red Cross, where she served as secretary for the enrollment of nurses. From 1902 to 1906, she was superintendent of the training school at Bellevue Hospital, where she worked to upgrade the nursing curriculum and improve the status of nurses in the medical profession.
After some time spent in Virginia caring for her mother, Jane returned to New York, where she assumed the presidency of the American Nurses Association and chaired the Board of the American Journal of Nursing. In 1909, she became chair of the American Red Cross Nursing Service and superintendent of the Army Nursing Corps. In addition, Jane saw to creation of Red Cross training in hygiene and home care for the sick, set up the Red Cross Town and Country Nursing Service for the delivery of health care to rural areas, and organized emergency response teams for disaster relief.
Under Jane’s leadership, the Red Cross Nursing Service became the nursing reserve for the Army, the Navy and the Public Health Service. By the time the United States entered World War I, the Service had more than 8,000 nurses trained and ready for duty. By war’s end, Jane had seen to it that more than 20,000 nurses plus nurses’ aides were added to this number.
After the war, Jane traveled to Europe to oversee Red Cross activities and visit the places where American nurses were serving. While she was in France, Jane fell ill with an ear infection, which later developed into mastoiditis. Her condition worsened and Jane died on April 15, 1919 and was buried in the American military cemetery in Savenay in France. One year later, the Army Quartermaster Corps brought Jane’s remains back to the United States, where they were re-interred in the nurses section of Arlington National Cemetery. In 1972, the citizens of Schuyler County dedicated their new hospital to Jane Arminda Delano.