Nursing Notes, January 1891

This month’s post comes from the 1891 issue of the Nursing Notes.

As we have seen before with these early volumes of the Nursing Notes, there is a very austere and serious feel to the journal. It is easy to see how it was such a ground-breaking educational tool for midwives and nurses, as in 10 pages it crams in medical articles, recipes and news from the nursing world.

Nursing Notes, January 1891
Nursing Notes, January 1891

In this issue there is much talk of typhoid, and the recent epidemic of influenza, which had such a devastating effect on nurses, particularly those in private service. Reporting on a large number of deaths from these two infectious diseases, the journal stresses how this had placed an even greater demand on the supply of good nurses. Looking back over the previous year, the journal noted how the foundation of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nurses had been a stimulus to recruitment, both in the cities and districts. In an age when royal approval was all it took to get a good cause moving, it is interesting to see also how the National Pension Fund for Nurses was given a boost by support shown by the Princess and Prince of Wales as President and Patron of the Fund (later King Edward VII, the Queen’s great-grandfather).

This blog has featured before the advertisements for midwifery bags from the 1920s and later: in 1891, a written description by a district nurse and midwife of the contents of her bags itemised everything that was needed. There are some wonderful details, such as how to wrap an enema syringe, giving turpentine a different bottle stopper to that of methylated spirit in order to tell the difference, and the importance, above everything, of weight. It would appear that there was little difference from the bag used in the 1920s to the bags of 40 years earlier, although it would be lovely to have one for the museum collection!

News of the progress of the Midwives’ Registration Bill through Parliament is prolific, and although it would be another decade before the bill was passed, the hopefulness of the campaign is evident and clear, despite already being 12 years in the making:

‘After twelve years of work at the question of the improvement of midwives we are glad to be able to say that those from whom we have received the most consistent and liberal-minded help and sympathy have been general practitioners, both in town and country. These know that it is not a question of creating midwives, that they always have and always will exist; the urgency is to see that they have some training to fit them to undertake the care of the mother and child in natural cases and to send for the medical men in abnormal ones.’

My favourite part of this issue is the recipe column, entitled ‘Invalid Cookery’. With recipes for such dishes as eel broth, lambs’ feet, mince in vegetable marrow, and junket, this is a real glimpse of a different era and an alternative view of ‘good old fashioned cookery’. I reproduce below the recipe for jelly with ice – not one you would give to the children though!



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