1885 - 1945

Cornelia Van Kooy is considered the "mother' of public health nursing in Wisconsin. Under her direction, it evolved from a limited service for the sick poor to a broad service for the whole community. She made this state's public health service a model for other states.

Born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, Van Kooy migrated with her family to Milwaukee in 1905. Two years later she entered St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing in that city.

After completing the nursing program, she was engaged in private duty nursing, and in 1911, joined the staff of the Milwaukee Health Department as its first Child Welfare nurse. After three years she left the Health Department to become a demonstration nurse for the Wisconsin Anti-Tuberculosis Association (WATA - now the American Lung Association of Wisconsin). The organization often "lent" nurses to various counties throughout the state for limited periods of time to convince county boards of their value in the fight against tuberculosis.

During World War 1, Van Kooy served as a Red Cross nurse with the Milwaukee Base Hospital No. 22 in southern France. Upon her return, she was employed by the State Board of Health to organize its Bureau of Child Welfare and Public Health Nursing. She then returned to WATA to teach its four-month course in public health nursing.

Van Kooy returned to the State Board of Health in 1927 to become the supervisor of the Bureau of Public Health Nursing, a position she held until her death. She travelled throughout the state, counseling nurses employed by the counties, frequently accompanying them on their visits to one room schools.

She was twice president of the Wisconsin (State) Nurses Association 1924-1927; 1929-1930). During her second term, the biennial convention was held in Milwaukee, the only time it has been in Wisconsin.

Van Kooy died of a malignancy on September 7, 1945. At the time of her death, an editorial recognizing her contributions appeared in the Madison Capital Times. It noted, "...there were thousands ... who never saw her, whose lives were made more tolerable, and whose suffering was relieved, because of the great spirit and deep understanding that this woman brought to the service she rendered to the state".


(September 24, 1991). Cornelia Van Kooy 1885-1945. Nursing Matters. Madison, WI: Madison Newspapers.