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Royal British Nurses' Association Membership Rolls

The Royal British Nurses' Association was established in 1887 by Mrs Gordon Fenwick, ex matron of St Bartholomew's Hospital, and a group of supporters, to promote the registration of nurses in Great Britain. For a short time it was the key platform for nurse reformers who believed their profession should be organised along national lines, with centrally recognised qualifications and standardised training schemes. They faced stiff opposition from doctors, hospital managers and many nurses, and nursing had to wait until the formation of General Nursing Council and the passing of the Nurse Registration act in 1919 before such aspirations were achieved.

From its inception, the RBNA kept a register of members who had to apply to join and who whose suitability to be a member was assessed by the Membership Committee. The register includes details of the nurse's training and subsequent career, being kept up to date by adding information to the woman's entry whenever she changed address.

The RBNA also kept a register of supporters, who were not necessarily nurses but people who supported its work. This register is also to be transcribed, as is a third, smaller midwifery register.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with King's College Archive which has care of the registers, and which has already conducted a small pilot to transcribe the first 1,000 entries in the Nurses' Register. The results of this work are available via a dedicated site, Pioneering Nurses. The new project will continue this work to create a database of nurses, supporters and midwifery-trained nurses up to 1932. In total, the combined databases will contain 15,000 entries, although as there is expected to be some overlap between the three registers, the number of individuals may be lower. The resulting resource will be invaluable to historians of nursing interested in studying career development and the surprising mobility of nurses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; but it will also facilitate access to a valuable resource for family historians who wish to trace their nursing ancestors.

The work is being carried out Kingston University's Centre for the Historical Record, which is bringing to bear its experience in digitising and transcribing 19th and early 20th century hospital registers. Our team of experienced volunteers (both in- house and online) are making excellent progress in the transcription of the registers. Once completed the databases created at Kingston will be combined with that at King's to create a searchable resource made available to the public via the Pioneering Nurses website.

Join the team

  • We are looking for new volunteers to join our team, to transcribe and proof read the registers. This can be done at any time, via the internet, or at the University by joining a weekly session. No special experience is required - we will provide training and support. You do not need to be experienced, but if you want to work from home you need access to a PC with good internet connections.
  • If you'd be interested in getting involved with the project please contact Juliet Warren.
  • If you'd like to see examples of other transcribing projects we have worked on visit our website.

Centre for the Historical Record

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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