Nursing and the issue of ‘party’ in the Church of England: the case of the Lichfield Diocesan Nursing Association

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Abstract

Nursing and the issue of ‘party’ in the Church of England: the case of the Lichfield Diocesan Nursing Association

In recent years, there has been increased interest in the role of religion in the reform of nursing during the mid-nineteenth century. However, less is known about how ‘party’ disputes between evangelicals and followers of the ‘Oxford Movement’ may have affected nursing. This study examines a proposal to create a nursing association for the Diocese of Lichfield in 1864, which leads to a public dispute concerning the ‘ecclesiastical’ nature of the organisation. Leading evangelicals in Derby campaigned against the idea of nurses belonging to a ‘sisterhood’. This resulted in two rival organisations being created in 1865. This paper reports upon the nature and origins of the dispute within the diocese, unsuccessful attempts to draw Florence Nightingale into the dispute and the relative success of the two institutions. The results of this research indicate that the importance of context and of place must be recognised when studying the history of nursing. This research is based mainly, upon newspaper reports, correspondence and miscellaneous sources, including biographies as there are few surviving records from the two organisations under scrutiny.

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