A haunted house on the Strand: Nursing Notes, June 1894

This month’s post comes from the June 1894 edition of ‘Nursing Notes: ‘A Practical Journal for Nurses’.

In 1894, ‘Nursing Notes’ was described as being the ‘journal of the Workhouse Infirmary Nursing Association and the Midwives’ Institute and Trained Nurses’ Club’ and was produced from an office at 12 Buckingham Street on the Strand in London, the original site of the Institute and Club. This building has an interesting history: a house on this site was occupied by the diarist, Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) and the statesman, Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford (1661-1724), while the house itself had been a centre of creativity of a different kind, with the painters William Etty (1787-1849) and Clarkson Stanfield (1793-1867) making it their residence. Such history comes at a price however – in 1953 there were reported sightings of the blurred, smiling phantom of Pepys!

12 Buckingham Street 12 Buckingham Street

It would be a brave ghost to attract the notice of the ladies of the Midwives’ Institute. The June issue of ‘Nursing Notes’ continues a series of articles looking at aspects of the nurse’s work, and this month covers the social aspect, covering interactions with men and women, dress and recreations. It would seem that the probationer nurse was in peril of mixing with men and ‘the subjects that she will hear talked about are not such as formed topics of conversation in her father’s drawing room’. The student nurse is urged to keep a dignified silence, remaining ‘aloof from the mere social chatter’ and giving ‘less time to the giddy frivolity that is the bane of modern hospital life.’ Within the following passage lies the very Victorian moral of the lesson:

‘Many a young medical student living in a dreary lodging in London, waited on by the dirty maid-of-all work, turns with eagerness to the trim, uniformed nurse who waits on him in the ward; on her attitude to him may depend the future: will she allow friendliness to cross the line that is the boundary between business and amusement? Will the little civilities pass into intimate confidences? And will she at last allow of an entanglement that may spoil the professional prospects of both because she had forgotten that they met only as student and nurse, and that all other intercourse should be avoided apart from her natural guardians?’

The nurse is encouraged to wear her uniform in a simple, unobtrusive and neat manner in order not to be classed among those women ‘who dress for the purpose of attracting attention’. There is also caution to the probationer nurse to choose her recreational activities wisely – too much party or theatre going ‘is no repair of the jaded energies’.

A change of topic is introduced by Bessie Halliday, a diplomée of the National Training School of Cookery, London, who talks of the value of the practical demonstrations she had recently given at Buckingham Street to nurses ‘anxious to learn something of sick-room cookery’, and she goes on to give recipes for Béchamel sauce, gooseberry sauce, and Hollandaise sauce, advising that a wooden spoon and a round-bottomed saucepan should always be used without fail. This is followed by details of an exhibition for mothers and children’s nurses to be held at Humphrey’s Hall, Knightsbridge entitled ‘Baby’s Exhibition’, consisting of lectures and ‘exhibits of specialities and necessaries, connected with infantile and juvenile life, comprising food, beverages, clothing, etc., both for mother and infant.’

Other articles go on to discuss midwifery training for midwives planning to practise overseas, district midwifery, thread worms, and the use of anaesthetics, and rather oddly to today’s standards, whether beer should be offered as a stimulant in the diet of nurses!

The Midwives’ Institute published its notices for the coming month, including classes for the London Obstetrical Examination, the donation of a ‘dummy foetus’ to the Club for training purposes, the work of the Association for the Improvement and Compulsory Registration of Nurses, and a lecture on ‘The Organisation of the Medical Service of an Army in the Field – which was very well received because ‘All women are at heart deeply patriotic, and the woes of our soldiers…always touch a sympathetic chord.’

This issue concludes with advertisements and situations vacant, including details of the merits of Hovis bread and the Peronee Girdle (‘the only perfect occasional Belt in existence’), and also Mazawattee tea – ‘we feel sure that nurses, who are better judges of tea than most people, will gladly try this tea…’

Penny Hutchins, Archivist

One Comment Add yours

  1. Thom Bastian says:

    Interesting read, I enjoyed this thank you!

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