Nursing Notes & Midwives’ Chronicle, November 1915: Remembering Edith Cavell

This blog post was written by Autumn, one of our previous volunteers at the archive of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The leading article of this month’s issue is devoted to Edith Cavell, the British nurse who was executed by the German authorities in October for helping about 200 allied soldiers to escape from Brussels to neutral Holland.

Edith Cavell's obituary adapted from a Daily Mail article from October 1915 and featured in the November 1915 edition of Nursing Notes.
Edith Cavell’s obituary adapted from a Daily Mail article from October 1915 and featured in the November 1915 edition of Nursing Notes.

The article’s short introduction is followed by a reprinting of the Daily Mail’s leading article on Miss Cavell following her death. Entitled “A Martyr’s End”, the Daily Mail article tells of how, upon learning she was to be shot, Miss Cavell said she was happy to die for her country. The portrait of Miss Cavell that accompanies the article was loaned by her mother.

This issue points to Miss Katherine Mary Davies as another example of a heroic Englishwoman, explicitly comparing her story to that of Miss Cavell. The article “An Heroic Experiment” tells of how Miss Davies, a bacteriologist in Paris who was determined to prove the effectiveness of an antidote to poison gas, deliberately poisoned herself so that she could be treated with the antidote. Fortunately for her, she was right about its effectiveness!

In between these two pieces is an update on Nursing Notes’ Sand-Bag Fund, which had been announced in the previous issue. The editor thanks the readers for contributing to the £3 15s that has been received by the Fund and spent on sending two parcels of sand-bags to the Front. The piece also includes snippets of letters written by grateful soldiers and invites more contributions so that the Fund can carry on its work.

“English versus German Preparations” revisits the topic of finding substitutes for German medical preparations, which was addressed in the December 1914 issue. This article argues that although the price of drugs has risen in price due to the boycott on all things German, it’s good that Britain is no longer dependent on German medicines. It ends with a promise that a list of effective substitutions for German preparations will be published in next month’s issue.

Throughout the issue there are also many non-war related features. “When Old Friends Meet” is an anecdotal piece by Edith E. G. May, recalling two occasions on which her elderly father was visited by friends. The detailed descriptions of the visits and the excerpt from a conversation between Mr. May and one of the friends certainly reminded me of some interactions I’ve had with my dad!

In the “Midwife Notes” section, the article “When Should Health Visitors Visit?” tells of how some health visitors have started visiting newborns and their mothers while the new families are still being attended to by their assigned midwives. This is not the done thing, apparently. As the article explains, from the midwife’s point of view the health visitor is interfering in her work. The article also points out that sending health visitors out too early can be counterproductive because midwives, in their resentment, may influence new mothers to ignore health visitors’ advice.

Alongside quite a few familiar adverts are a couple that I haven’t hitherto seen in the wartime issues of Nursing Notes I’ve been looking at. One is from The British Commercial Gas Association and promotes the use of Gas Water-Heaters as a way of maintaining the constant supply of hot water necessary for both nurse and patient. The other lists a number of books featured in The Scientific Press’ latest catalogue, including one aptly titled “Nursing Notes on Midwifery”!

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