Nursing Notes October 1902

This month’s post comes from the 1902 volume of Nursing Notes.

Back to 1902 and the year of the passing of the Midwives Act, and this issue of Nursing Notes reflects the transition stage which the midwifery profession was going through. These early issues of the Nursing Notes are wonderful examples of social thinking and ethical issues in the early 20th century: an extract from a letter received by the editors from the superintendent of a nursing home in South Africa bemoans the nurses ‘crowding in’ and becoming disappointed with the nursing conditions, adding ‘Impress on them at home – that good, all-round nurses are required here, and women with some grit besides their training, and that this is a new country.’

A comment is also included on the health of children in Board Schools – which at this time were still the major form of education for children of the working classes. The prevalence of ringworm, scabies and ‘dirty heads’ is much lamented over, and the writer advocates sanitary education of the community in order to avoid preventable diseases requiring costly hospital treatment. This is followed by a short article on the benefits of fresh air, reminding readers that this is a policy which is endorsed by most nurses and midwives out in the community who commonly leave in their wake a stream of open windows during their rounds, which the community would do well to copy in order to dispel the ‘certain evils of an impure atmosphere’.

The journal gives details of activities to be held by the Midwives’ Institute during October, including a special meeting to discuss the Midwives Act, and the continuation of midwifery lectures to prepare members for the London Obstetrical Society midwifery examinations. This is a really good indication of the stage of transition which the profession was in at this time, and also the uncertainty with which the Act was received by midwives, although the Midwives Institute had done its best to be part of the development of the Act. Below can be seen a certificate issued by the London Obstetrical Society in 1892, which is held in the Archive of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – we are hoping to get some conservation work performed on this soon!

Midwife certificate 1892

This volume contains some wonderful advertisements – again great indications of the time. There are ‘Notes for practical nurses’ with instructions on how best to keep ice and milk (refrigerators were not widely available domestically until the 1920s):

‘Ice keeps best in a big lump of ten to twelve pounds or more, rolled in a thick blanket with sawdust, and put into the coolest place in the house….The jug of milk can be kept in an ante-room close at hand; put the jug (the top of it being covered with muslin to keep out the flies and dust) into a basin of salt and water, changing the water about every ten or twelve hours. Salt keeps the water cold longer.’

A new process of manufacturing cloth, called ‘Pirle Finish’ is advertised as the perfect fabric to make walking skirts from, providing a porous and hygienic finish to protect against wet and mud while retaining the fluidity of the fabric. A most necessitous requirement given the voluminous and long skirts which were in vogue at the time.

And to end on a more familiar theme, the chocolatier Cadbury’s give notice about the nutritional values of their milk chocolate, reassuring customers that the chocolate is ‘free from colouring matter and added alkalies’ and its ‘keeping qualities are good, and climate has no deteriorating effect.’  It is nice to know that some things haven’t changed!

Penny Hutchins, Archivist

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