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Health Series: International Women's Day

Nursing and Midwifery Council join celebration of City’s nursing pioneers on International Women’s Day

School of Health Sciences event honours Ethel Bedford Fenwick and Catherine Pine


The School of Health Sciences at City, University of London marked International Women’s Day 2018 with a celebration of the lives of Ethel Bedford Fenwick and Catherine Pine, two nursing pioneers.

Joined by Emma Westcott (Assistant Director for Strategy and Insight at the Nursing and Midwifery Council) and Professor Maggie Nicol (President of the League of St Bartholomew’s Nurses), the School unveiled photographs of Ethel and Catherine on its Extraordinary Women Wall in Myddelton Street reception while also displaying some of their personal historical artefacts from the Barts Museum and Archives. The event was also supported by the Museum of London, who provided photographs from their Catherine Pine Collection.

Opening the event, Professor Debra Salmon (Dean of the School of Health Sciences), said:

“I’m delighted to welcome you to the School of Health Sciences at City, University of London to celebrate International Women’s Day. We are immensely proud of our connection to both Ethel and Catherine, who provide inspiration for health care professionals today; their values and aspirations being particularly pertinent on International Women’s Day.”

Born in 1857, Ethel Bedford Fenwick campaigned for over 30 years for the establishment of a register for nurses. As Matron at St Bartholomew’s School of Nursing and Midwifery from 1881-1887, Ethel founded the Barts Training School for Nurses, which later became part of City, University of London in 1995.

An ardent suffragist, Ethel also founded a number of organisations designed to support legislation to establish the nurses’ register. Her hard work finally paid off, and in 1919 with the passing of the Nurses’ Registration Act, the register opened and Ethel became ‘nurse number 1’ on the register of nurses.

“Ethel was a women of great energy and drive who made an extraordinary contribution to nursing,” said Professor Salmon. “Thanks to the Barts archivist we have the original copy of Ethel’s application to join the register and some of her nursing badges here today – we are hugely grateful for their commitment to keeping these priceless articles safe and accessible so that future generations of nurses and midwives can appreciate them.”

Born in 1864, Catherine Pine was educated as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital from 1895-1897. After she qualified she remained at St Bartholomew’s and in 1900 was promoted to Hospital Sister.

“Catherine ran a nursing home where suffragettes were cared for as they recovered from hunger strikes and forced feeding endured at Holloway prison,” said Professor Salmon.

Indeed, Catherine became the personal nurse of Emmeline Pankhurst after her release from Holloway Prison in 1913. During the First World War she also set up a hostel in which to care for illegitimate ‘war babies’, this was housed first in Mecklenburgh Square and then at 50 Clarendon Road.

“What Catherine and her peers wanted was the opportunity for women to live rich, full and self-determined lives in the domestic sphere and, if they sought it, in the public realm,’ said Emma Westcott. “A century ago, a significant step forward was made when the first women - not all women - secured the vote. Catherine played her part in that victory by providing care and encouragement to women on the frontline of suffragist battle.”

Having travelled to America and Canada with Emmeline Pankhurst, Catherine returned to England in 1923 and returned to nursing, becoming one of the first to register as a State Enrolled Nurse.

Read more about Catherine Pine

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