This month’s blog is taken from the 1946 volume of Midwives Chronicle and Nursing Notes.
Two items really stick out as being worthy of mention in this volume, the first of which brings us right back into the 21st century. The parallels of the current campaign for more midwives and the gentle, but rather scathing, criticism in the columns of ‘Nursing Notes’ in 1946 cannot be ignored. The Royal College of Midwives were forthright and adamant in their conviction of where the blame lay and how to put things right. The shortage of midwives in the post-war period was blamed on the State and the leaders of the nursing profession: the targets set by the 1936 Midwives Act coupled with the requirement for midwives to also be State-Registered Nurses meant that provision of midwives in both urban and rural areas was unacceptably poor. A shortage of nurses generally meant that there were fewer recruits into the midwifery profession who held the State Registration, and the RCM deplored the fact that:
‘It is obvious…that no matter how desirable it may be ideally for every midwife to have State Registration on the general or sick children’s part of the State Register, this would entail four to five years’ training for each midwife, and is not a practical proposition for probably at least the next ten years if we wish to ensure an adequate supply of midwives for the developing midwifery services.’
Not being an institution to criticize without offering something else in return, the Council of the RCM suggested that all entrants to the nursing and midwifery professions should have a basic training of two years, followed by one or two years’ specialisation in any chosen branch. This would standardise training throughout the branches of nursing. The College is quick to point out the alternative, which would be to recruit non-State Registered nursing candidates to midwifery, to take the course of training approved by the Central Midwives Board, supplemented by internships at midwifery training schools. Today’s shortage of midwives, with roots in cuts in investment in recruitment and management, tells a story not much different from nearly 70 years ago.
The other item of note in this volume is a new feature of the journal, made possible by the greater availability of paper ensuing from the cessation of the war. Home Hints and Cookery was to bring household and nutrition tips for midwives to pass onto mothers. This issue focuses on packed lunches – ideas for the ‘harrassed mothers facing the daily problem of a packed lunch for their men folk.’ It is suggested that soya flour be substituted as a tasty and nutritious filling for sandwiches, with enticing recipes for scrambled eggs and potato mousse! (These will be included at the end of this post for any who want to try out sandwich fillings 1940s style!)
Other items in this volume include reproduction of lectures delivered by F J Browne FRCOG at the London Postgraduate School for Midwives on maternal morbidity and by Max Reiss, Director of the Endocrinological Department, Bristol on hormones and pregnancy. A new leaflet on ‘Exercises during pregnancy and the puerperium’ is advertised as being available from the head office of the College of Midwives for 2d (but a copy can be seen for free today in the RCM Archive!)
The previous meeting of the College of Midwives Council had included discussion of the need for council housing for midwives, preparations for the impending publication of the Government’s National Health Scheme, and the restriction being applied to some midwives by their governing bodies on their ability to administer drugs. It was also reported that the next Annual General Meeting (presumably of 1946) was to be held in the ‘uncramped and spacious surroundings’ of the Conference Hall of County Hall, Westminster Bridge, then home to the London County Council.
Now for those recipes – let me know if you try any out!
Scrambled Egg Filling:
Make in the usual way but add soya flour in the proportion of two parts of flour to one of egg, mixing to a creamy consistency with water and only a little milk. A pinch of dried herbs helps to get rid of that ‘dried’ egg flavour so much disliked and the mixtures makes a really tasty spread.
Mash any left over potatoes, add some soya flour mixed to a smooth paste, cook for a few minutes, and flavour with grated cheese, minced bacon, meat or vegetable extract, anchovy, etc.
Penny Hutchins, Archivist