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Twixt candle and lamp: the contribution of Elizabeth Fry and the Institution of Nursing Sisters to Nursing Reform.

Medical History
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
  • Research Article


Medical History, 2002, 46: 351-380 Twixt Candle and Lamp: The Contribution of Elizabeth Fry and the Institution of Nursing Sisters to Nursing Reform R G HUNTSMAN, MARY BRUIN and DEBORAH HOLTTUM* In 1897, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee ofQueen Victoria's reign, a leading article appeared in the British Medical Journal entitled 'The nursing of the sick under Queen Victoria'.' Outlining the evolution of nursing, it described Elizabeth Fry as "the founder of nursing". For the author of an article in the Nursing Record and Hospital World in the same year,2 she was "the real pioneer of Nursing in this country". In the light of such unusual agreement between doctors and nurses, it is curious that a hundred years later, Elizabeth Fry's contribution to the founding of the nursing profession is, with very few exceptions, almost totally forgotten.3 The purpose of this article is to assess whether these claims were valid and, if so, why they are no longer widely recognized today. Elizabeth was born in 1780 in Norwich into a wealthy Quaker family, the fourth of twelve children of John Gurney, a Norfolk banker.4 Being dyslexic, she was considered by her family to be stupid and was unable to benefit fully from the * R G Huntsman, MD, FRCP, FRCPath, The Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University, St John's Newfoundland, Canada AIC 5S7. Address for correspondence: Australind, Brancaster Staithe, King's Lynn, Norfolk, PE31 8BP, UK; Mary Bruin, BA, 14 Marshall Drive, Hayes, Middlesex, UB4 OSW; Deborah Holttum, 300 Malden Road, New Malden, Surrey, KT3 6AT. For this article we have drawn extensively on the records of the Institution of Nursing Sisters which are held with the records of the Queen's Nursing Institute in the Archives and Manuscripts collections of the Wellcome Library, London, shelfmark SA/QNI. Unless otherwise stated, the unpublished material cited is from this collection. We have also had access to Elizabeth Fry's unpublished journals and other archives held in the Relig

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