The First Women’s Day: Nursing Notes, March 1911

As a celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March, this month’s post comes from the March issue of the 1911 volume of ‘Nursing Notes and Midwives’ Chronicle’, the year in which the first Women’s Day was held.

The midwives were not in the mood for celebrating in 1911. The year before had seen the passing of the marking point beyond which midwives not registered on the roll of the Central Midwives Board were no longer allowed to practice. Not that this was seen as a bad thing. In the leading article of this issue of the journal, discussion of the impact of the 1902 Midwives’ Act acknowledges the success of the Act in reducing incidences of puerperal fever and ophthalmia neonatorum. It was the ‘vexatious and arbitrary regulations’ introduced by the Act which were blamed for the lack of trained midwives, to the extent that it was stated ‘we are faced with the fact that the conditions are such that trained midwives are declining to take up their work.’

Anticipating amendment to the Act in the coming year, the article deplored possible extension of powers of Local Supervising Authorities over midwives, and concludes by hoping that an Amending Bill would not introduce new restrictive ‘bonds’ which would have the effect of driving out of the profession ‘those very women the original Act was passed to encourage’.

An interesting account of the East End Mother’s Home, which moved to new premises on Commercial Road in East London in 1911, looks at how the home was founded by Lady Violet Greville, Mrs Gladstone and Mrs Stuart Wortley in response to the poverty and poor conditions for mothers prevalent in London’s East End. With thirty beds and ‘a window overlooking a tree’, the home also provided a thriving out-patient department serving the needs of women delivered and nursed in their own homes and offering a ‘weekly consultation’ for mothers, including the weighing of babies, advice on feeding and clothing, and a welcome cup of tea.

As always, there is the element of the unexpected to be found in the journal – this month sees a look at the ‘The Utility of Esperanto’ as an international common language. Citing the example of the firm Burroughs, Wellcome & Co as one of the ‘up-to-date’ business firms appreciating the value of Esperanto, readers are directed to look at the recent booklet from the pharmaceutical company written in Esperanto for its international clientiele. This international language, devised in 1887 by Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof (1859-1917), flourishes today in Eastern Europe and China.

The advertisements included in the volume are a great indication of consumerism and social habits, and featured below is an advert for midwifery bags and contents, particularly informative for the historian or curate responsible for early midwifery equipment!

Penny Hutchins, RCOG/RCM Archivist

Bailey's Nursing Appliances advertisement
Bailey’s Nursing Appliances advertisement

One Comment Add yours

  1. Bill Chapman says:

    Thanks for this fascinating glimpse at the past.

    I hope you’ll allow me to add that there have been Esperanto speakers in the United Kingdom for over a century. This language has some remarkable practical benefits. Personally, I’ve made friends around the world through Esperanto that I would never have been able to communicate with otherwise. Anyone interested in the current state of this planned language should take a look at

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