We have been working closely with the archive at King’s College London to produce a database of members of the Royal British Nurses Association. (RBNA). The RBNA was established in 1887 by a group of London matrons. 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.
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 each nurse’s training and subsequent career, being kept up to date by adding information to the woman’s entry whenever she changed address.
The Centre for the Historical Record’s team of dedicated volunteers has transcribed the nurse registers and the results of this work will soon be made available to the public, free of charge, via King’s website Pioneering Nurses . The records of over 6,500 nurses (searchable by name) will be made available via this website, which will open up access to a valuable resource for family historians who wish to trace their nursing ancestors. The databases behind the website, which are fully searchable by a variety of different indexes, will be available to historians of nursing interested in studying career development and the surprising mobility of nurses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition to the main register, we have also created databases of two other RBNA registers – a register of supporters (which includes non-nurse supporters of the objectives of the association) and a small register of midwife-members.