Sue Hawkins, Editor, The UKAHN Bulletin The UKAHN Bulletin
Volume 8 (1) 2020

These are strange times. As I write this, The National Archives in London (where I have been working recently) has closed its doors for the foreseeable future, along with most other archives and museums across the country – and across the world; although don’t forget, many (including The National Archives) are still open virtually! People everywhere are being encouraged to make significant changes to their lifestyle, to self-isolate, to avoid contact with each other, and to stay at home. On the bright side, perhaps we will all rediscover those half-written articles which have been put away in drawers, for when there is more time …

So with that in mind, welcome to Volume 8 (Spring 2020) of the UK Association for the History of Nursing Bulletin. As ever this issue contains a mix of research articles, work in progress pieces, and more informal articles on topics we hope will be of interest to the community. Most contributions originated from the UKAHN 2019 Colloquium, whose theme was Humanitarian Nursing, and much of this issue picks up that thread. It is international in flavour and covers a wide range of time periods.

There are four full length research articles. We begin with Alannah Tomkins’ fascinating account of the contribution of ladies to the nursing of wounded soldiers in Brussels, in the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo. Alannah ponders the humanitarian motivations of the well-to-do women in Brussells and whether their activity anticipated (however indirectly) the later mid-century appearance of the ‘lady nurse’. A swift jump in time (and emotions) takes us to Kate Docking’s sombre account of ‘nursing’ in Ravensbruck concentration camp during the second world war. How, she asks, were nurses able to participate in (or turn a blind eye to) the atrocities which took place there, questions she answers using evidence gathered from trial transcripts and survivor memoirs in a chilling account. Another rather disturbing case, where humanitarianism comes into conflict with practice, is presented in the next article by Lea Williams who has been researching the life of American nurse, Ellen La Motte. In this article Lea focusses on a short period of La Motte’s life, when she worked as public health nurse, focussing on tuberculosis and its prevention. Her solution was radical, to downplay (or even sacrifice) the needs of the individual for the sake of the general population. Given the times we are currently living through, La Motte’s ideas are thrown into sharp focus and raise questions of our own about the best way to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Our final full-length article comes from Pamela Dale, and is study of the challenges faced by local councils in the interwar years as they attempted to develop comprehensive health visiting services. From a variety of records, Pamela reconstructs the ever-changing and growing Halifax health visiting team, exposing its incredible challenges of recruitment and retention.

Two of the shorter articles raise questions about the way we conduct historical research, and how our choices influence the history we write. Carol Helmstadter writes of Maria Machin, a Nightingale nurse who returned to her home country of Canada to introduce modern nursing to the Montreal General Hospital. Carol sets out to put the record straight in regard to Machin’s time in Montreal, arguing that previous histories have painted her a failure because of the sources on which they were based. Meanwhile, Barbra Mann Wall encourages historians to consider the use of photographs in writing histories; how detailed evaluation of photos can reveal as much (if not more) than the written word, and the importance of what is not in a photo as much as what is.

Frances Cadd’s article on the early nursing experience of Avis Hutt is enlightening, and provides insight into her later activism, fighting for free healthcare for all through the establishment of a National Health Service; while Sarah Rogers’ account of Eva Luckes’s attempts to escape the pressures of her job as matron at The Royal London Hospital, by visiting the Isles of Scilly, offers a refreshing image of this normally stern and domineering lady. Sue Hawkins’ brief account of the ‘career’ of a nineteenth-century workhouse nurse, cut short by what appears to be a case of institutional racism is rather distressing in places. Finally, a light-hearted article from Claire Laurent explores reminiscences of nursing myths and rituals from nurses who trained in the 1960s.

The issue also contains the usual mix of book reviews and reviews of events of the past year, dominated this time by the Florence 2020 conference held in February 2020.

I would like to thank all our contributors, for their support and patience; and Keiron Spires, with the help of Janet Hargreaves and Amanda Gwinnup, for his invaluable work in publishing this issue. Keiron has been involved in the production of The Bulletin for many years, and as this is his last issue before retiring. I would like to express the thanks and gratitude of the whole of the UKAHN Committee for his commitment and contribution, and especially for his work in getting The Bulletin online. Keiron will be handing over to Janet Hargreaves and Amanda Gwinnup, and I look forward to working with them on the next issue.

Colloquium 2020

Sadly, due to the uncertainty surrounding future events in these times of Covid-19, we have reluctantly taken the decision to postpone this year’s Colloquium, which was due to be held in Chichester on 30 June 2020. The Colloquium will now be held on Tuesday 29 June 2021. It will take place as originally planned at the Friends Meeting House in Chichester. So, a new date for your diary is UKAHN Colloquium 2021, Tuesday, 29 June 2021. More information about submitting papers and registering for the 2021 Colloquium will be available soon, so keep an eye on the UKAHN website for further news.

If you were planning to present a paper, you could consider submitting it for publication in the next issue of the Bulletin, which will be in Spring 2021, and still submit it for inclusion in the Colloquium 2021 program. The deadline for submission for inclusion in the 2021 Bulletin will be announced on the UKAHN Bulletin website soon.

The Bulletin relies on your submissions – without which there would be no journal – so please do think about us, whether you are planning a paper for the Colloquium or not. You can find more about how to submit potential articles here: