Sue Hawkins, Independent Researcher and Editor
The UKAHN Bulletin
Volume 10 (1) 2022

Welcome to the 2022 issue (Issue 10) of the UKAHN Bulletin.

Although it was a hard act to follow, I believe the 2022 Bulletin has followed on well from our special issue last year which focussed on the theme of race and ethnicity in nursing history.

This year, The UKAHN Bulletin, has reverted to its traditional approach of encouraging presenters at the 2022 Colloquium to submit articles based on their papers, thus extending the reach of their research to a global readership.

We received articles for publication from many of the presenters but also have contributions from researchers not at the Colloquium. The full-length academic articles in this issue cover subjects which range from the training of indigenous midwives in Java in the first half of the 20th century, exemplified through the work of one woman, Djarisah (by Liesbeth Hesselink) to the development of nursing homes in 20th century England (by Janet Hargreaves), a subject thus far rather ignored in nursing history; and from night nurses in poor law workhouses in England (by Stuart Wildman) to an exploration of how the popular construction of the nurse’s body in the UK contrasted with the reality of her embodied experience during the second world war (Katherine Roberts).

This issue of the Bulletin also carries a number of shorter ‘work-in-progress’ articles derived from ongoing projects or PhD research. They too cover a broad spectrum of subjects, from the training of public health nursing in Japan (by Yuko Kawakami) to the development of the first university-based nurse training courses in Belgium (Luc De Munck); from the early days of critical care nursing, explored through a study of the North Manchester General Hospital (Sharon Whiting) to the impact of the rise of fascism on nursing in Italy, using text analysis software to explore use of language and imagery in nursing journals of the time (Anna La Torre). This section ends with a study (by Alannah Tomkins) of a small group of unmarried 18th century English women who recorded their experiences of nursing family and friends in their diaries, in which the author asks can such sources give some indication as to how (the almost totally undocumented) paid carers in this era might have felt about their work.

As can be seen from this list, this issue of the Bulletin is truly international in scope, with articles from Japan, Belgium, Indonesia and Italy (as well as the UK). This is both impressive and encouraging, indicating that scholars in the history of nursing embrace a global sharing of ideas – which takes a great deal of courage and hard work on the part of non-English speaking contributors. I have nothing but admiration for our contributors from Belgium (Luc De Munk), Netherlands (Liesbeth Hessellink), Italy (Anna La Torre) and Japan (Yuko Kawakami), who are not only battling with a second language, but are also confronted with explaining the historical context of their work to a global readership who may not be familiar with it. As Yuko explains in her article

‘To bring new research to a global audience involves not only presenting the research itself, but includes an attempt to contextualize it within an area that readers may know little about … translation of terms [specific to nurse education in Japan] … which readers are likely to interpret with reference to the systems they are most familiar with, though they may not be equivalent [need careful thought].’

Despite there being no overall theme, nevertheless a close reading of the articles reveals a number of shared themes which run through the issue.

One major theme is use of sources, especially sources based on personal memory. Alannah Tomkins and Katherine Roberts have both used diaries and personal writing to explore their subjects, while Yuko Kawami, Sharon Whiting and Janet Hargreaves have used oral history, either generated specifically for their projects (in the case of Yuko and Sharon) or established oral history collections (in Janet’s study – where she made use of the Royal College of Nursing’s extensive oral history collection). Using personal recollections, whether diaries, letters or oral histories presents some challenges, and authors discuss issues of poor recollection, gaps and fragmentary evidence, which such sources can throw up, and how to address them through triangulation and verification through alternative sources.  As Alannah says of her use of personal papers, ‘By gathering multiple shreds of evidence from dispersed sources (in this case from three spinsters’ writings) we reveal aspects of pre-reform nursing in ways that variegate our appreciation of historic actions and constraints on nurse activity.’

An added bonus of the approaches taken by both Sharon and Yuko in creating oral histories as part of their research, is the creation of new resources for future historians. It is hoped that both will be able to find safe homes for the oral histories they have created, enabling them to become part of growing resource on the history of nursing in the 20th century and beyond.

Other themes emerge. Several articles discuss the importance of empathy in the role of the nurse (Alannah, Katherine and Janet), and three discuss innovative training of nurses for different specialisms or at different levels: Luc’s focus is on the first university-level training courses in Belgium, while Liesbeth’s article examines the development of the first training courses for indigenous midwives in Java and Yuko raises the interesting question faced by the authorities in Japan when they decided to establish training for nurses in public health – who trains the first trainers?

Returning to the question of sources, and oral history in particular, Teresa Doherty, Joint Head of the Royal College of Nursing Library and Archive Service, provides a detailed description of the RCN’s extensive oral history collection, and particularly the oral history project set up in 1986 by the RCN’s History of Nursing Forum. The collection comprises 355 interviews made over thirty years, recording 625 hours of lived experience and detailing over one-hundred years of history of nursing in the UK.  Teresa encourages anyone working in history of nursing in the UK in the 20th century to consider consulting the archive, and provides information in her article on how to do this and who to contact.

Finally, the issue wraps up with three short articles which represent the first thoughts on new projects. Sarah Rogers presents a short piece on the well-known early matron, Eva Luckes, the subject of her recently awarded PhD (congratulations Sarah) and of her new project, a complete biography of this influential matron’s life. Janet Hargreaves and Sue Hawkins have taken ‘the local environment’ as their inspiration: Janet recently discovered reference to a nursing association which was in operation in her local community in the early 20th century, and is now starting her investigation of this initiative; while Sue was inspired by a plaque she saw on her local bus route, referring to a woman who ‘nursed’ Prince Edward (later Edward VI). Their two short articles lay out what they have discovered so far and where their research might take them next.

As editor of the Bulletin, I would like to thank all our authors who have undertaken their research, often still in the shadow of the Covid pandemic when many archives and libraries are still emerging from lockdown closures; and the often-forgotten peer reviewers, who worked with the authors of the new articles in a constructive and productive way. I must also acknowledge the sterling work of Janet Hargreaves in the production of this issue: without her this issue would never have made it to publication

I will close with one last comment. There has been talk this year of the potential demise of the history of nursing as a specialism (in the UK at least), but I think this issue of the Bulletin shows this not to be true, and that the history of nursing community both in the UK and around the world is still very much alive and kicking.  UKAHN which publishes the Bulletin and organises the the Colloquium, is also alive and well with a bright future, and is planning its next Colloquium as I write. It will be held on 28 June 2023 at the University of Chichester, and I encourage anyone inspired by the articles published in this issue of the Bulletin to submit proposals for a paper at the Colloquium and to consider publishing them in the 2023 issue of the UKAHN Bulletin. For more information go to the Colloquium 2023 link on the UKAHN website by following this link:

The UKAHN Committee (Janet Hargreaves, Sarah Rogers, Amanda Gwinnup and myself) would like to send Season’s Greetings to all our readers and a wish you all a successful and prosperous 2023.