this study examines the strategies of power in the context of maternity carmela dutra, florianópolis, santa catarina, brazil, in the period 1956 to 1986. qualitative research with socio-historical approach. eight nurses were interviewed using the technique of thematic oral history. the data were categorized using qualitative analysis and based on foucaultian referential. three categories emerged: the power to give birth in space, the use of uniforms as a strategy of power, medical visit: a place of power-knowledge. the results indicate that the role of the nurse in the maternity was consolidating its professionalism, showing the movement and flexibility of power. the nurse in the daily lives in the institution with disputes, interests and repressions embedded in social, cultural and political contexts revealed within the health care practices.