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Registration of Nurses
The Association was the first body to press for a minimum standard of three years training for all nurses.
 
Former President - Miss Mary Cochrane RRC
Miss Mary Cochrane RRC

Its register was the first Register of Nurses in the world and was the first to place in its programme the attainment of an Act of Parliament for the State Registration of Qualified Nurses. Mrs. Bedford-Fenwick was the principal inspirer and leader of this movement. She was ably supported by that Great Matron, Miss Isla Stewart of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Lavina Dock, Assistant Director of Nursing, John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, U.S.A., Lucy Osbourne and Mary Cochrane. The struggle for the Act was long and hard; it took thirty years and five Select Committees and attempts in Parliament before an Act was finally passed, Royal Assent granted and it was placed on the Statue Book in 1919.

The first Bill for the Registration of Nurses was put forward as a Private Members Bill in 1904. The second Bill for the Registration was promoted in the House of Commons and further attempts made in 1906, 1909, 1913, 1914 and 1918. Finally the Government introduced a Bill which was passed and became law as the Nurses Act December 23rd 1919.

 
The passing of the Bill was witnessed from the Public Gallery of the House of Commons by Mrs. Bedford-Fenwick and the thirty year struggle for nursing registration was over. This was not the end. Now, as then, the RBNA's quest for the recognition of the status of the Professional Nurse continues.
 
The Register, or the List of Names as the protagonists to the Association preferred it to be called, is the most important document that the Association holds. It was restored at Windsor Castle in 1989 and contains 10,000 names. The first three thousand names includes many nurses who went on to be Leaders of Nursing in many fields. Among them are Isla Stewart, Matron of St. Bartholomew's Hospital 1 887-1 910, Professor Charlotte Searle who has written recently about the RBNA's role in connection with Sister Henrietta Stockdale who gave South Africa State Registration - so becoming the first in the world to achieve this. Catherine Wood, Matron, Great Ormond Street Hospital 1878-1888.
 
Ethel Bedford-Fenwick was born Ethel Gordon Manson in 1856 and in her nursing career rose to become Matron at Saint Bartholomew's Hospital from 1881 to 1887. It was at 'St. Bart's' that she met and married Dr. Bedford-Fenwick.
 
Mrs Bedford-Fenwick acquired the Nursing Record in 1893 and became its Editor in 1903. It was renamed The British Journal of Nursing and through its pages for the next 54 years her thinking and her beliefs are clearly revealed. She believed that there was a need for training to a recognised standard and was instrumental in forming The British Nurses Association now the Royal British Nurses Association as a means of furthering this endeavour.
 
This was followed in 1926 by the foundation of The British College of Nurses. This establishment would enable Ethel to fulfil her desire for further education through Fellowships and Diplomas of Nursing and promote a high standard of nursing care and professional status of nurses. Ethel Bedford-Fenwick worked tirelessly to promote higher standards of professionalism and status within nursing until her death in 1947 at the age of 90. It is most appropriate that she appears as "Nurse No. 1" in the RBNA List of Names.
 
 

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