Getting to Know Resusci Anne



Do you remember the first time you were introduced to Resusci Anne?  You might have even been too nervous to notice much about this doll that would become your career-long friend.  Were you busy trying to remember what to say?

"Annie, Annie, are you OK?"

Look, listen and feel.  "Get help!  Call 911!"

You know the drill.

CPR trainers will occasionally try to make your relationship with Resusci Anne more personal by telling the story of her making and history.  Sadly, some of these accounts do not tell Anne's real story.  Since your first encounter was rather traumatic and your following meetings were just as rushed, let's take a minute to get to know our sometimes arm-and-leg-less friend, Anne.

With help from the pioneering influence behind CPR, Dr. Peter Safar, Anne was designed by a Norwegian publisher turned toymaker named Asmund S. Laerdal in 1960.  This toymaker was creating a place for himself in the medical community by providing realistic wound and care simulations for training healthcare providers in first aid and emergency medicine techniques.  At about this same time, the life saving technique known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was being perfected by Dr. Safar, gaining popularity, and establishing itself as a required skill for all medical personnel.  Mr. Laerdal felt that if he could provide learners with a life-size, life-like model that allowed for resuscitation practice, he might be able to motivate all healthcare providers and emergency medical personnel to learn better and try harder in their resuscitation efforts.

While searching for just the right face for Resuci Anne, Asmund encountered an old legend from France about L'Inconnue de la Seine or "the unknown woman of the Seine".  Hers was a sad story from the turn of the century.  According to the romantic fables that surrounded her, this young woman's body was retrieved from the River Seine in Paris.  She did not, however, show the normal evidences of trauma, foul play, or even an extended amount of time in the water.  Suicide was suspected.  She was, according to most, beautiful and serene.  Sadly, even with her beauty and fame, the young girl of approximately 16 years of age was never recognized and named.

A death mask was made, either through custom or fascination, and the unknown woman of the Seine became famous in artistic circles, both for her peaceful, ethereal smile and her mystery.  Her death mask was replicated and given place on the homes of artist and dignitaries.  Her supposed tragic death after a romantic encounter gone awry was woven into the threads of story and poetry.

Among the many tales was the 1934 best-selling novel Die Unbekannte by R Reinhold Conrad Muschler.  In this book an orphan named Madeleine Lavin falls in love with a British diplomat, then commits suicide when he will not leave his fiancée to be with her.  This same novel also became a movie in 1936.

Asmund became fascinated by the many stories and theories surrounding the girl's popular death mask.  Her face would fascinate him as well and would eventually serve as the template for Rescusi Anne's face.  The L'Inconnue de la Seine would become the face representing a new hope for life for over 45 years.  Not only would the young woman become one of the most romanticized characters in her own time period, because of Asmund Laerdal she would be given a name and a new set of tales to tell.  Rescusi Anne would become a symbol of life and the most "kissed" face of all time.


Anita Srikameswaran, A. Dr. Peter Safar: A life devoted to cheating death. Post-Gazette. March 31, 2002.

Gordon, A. A Death Mask to Help Save Lives.  URL Accessed April, 2008.

Laerdal History: Laerdal company website. Accessed April, 2008.

L'Inconnue de la Seine. Wikipedia.  Accessed April, 2008.


Copyright 2008- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights


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