Wonderful women with practical knowledge of nursing »: the emergence of nursing as an occupation

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« Every woman is a Nurse »: the origins of nursing in

colonial New Zealand Missionary nursing Pakeha medicine, together with pakeha concepts of nursing, came to New Zealand with the missionaries, who hoped that healing work would facilitate conversion of the heathen. John Owens suggests that it was « put to the Maoris that if they were willing to accept the benefits of European technical skills, so also should they accept the missionary testimony concerning Jehovah » .1 The missionaries found early evidence of the value of pakeha medicine in impressing potential converts. When Thomas Kendall successfully treated the widow of an important chief for a painful eye condition, the operation « considerably enhanced [him] in the estimation of his new friends … « .2 Medical mission work appears to have been increasingly valued over time: Eliza Stack noted after staying with William Williams that the demand for Williams’ medical services « shows what an advantage it is to the missionary’s flock when he is qualified to minister to the needs of their bodies as well as their souls ».3 By 1842, Richard Taylor could record in his journal that I could not help noticing today what an influence the dispensing of medicine gives the Missionary over the Natives. Those men come humbly asking for medicine who have been most opposed to us, and would not otherwise have condescended to have been seen near us

Florence Nightingale and the reform of nursing in England

The formal colonisation of the new colony of New Zealand which began in 1840 and the development of its pioneer settlements which continued over the next 40 years coincided with the beginnings of nursing reform in the Home Country. Florence Nightingale’s work as superintendent of a female nursing establishment for the British army during the Crimean War from 1854 to 1856 gave impetus to her reforming zeal. On her return to England, and with funding from a grateful nation, she set out to transform nursing into a respectable womanly occupation which a well-bred woman might undertake with honour. She was able to capitalise on prevailing ideologies which acknowledged the duty of women to use their « mothering » qualities beyond the private, domestic circle. Social responsibility and service to the community in fields not too far removed from domestic labours would bring women’s moral superiority into the public domain and benefit society as a whole.37 Nursing, already perceived to be the duty of all women within the home, was clearly a suitable womanly occupation outside it.

Nursing within the family

In the 1840s and 1850s, « nursing » remained an ill-defined term linked to a variety of women’s duties – breastfeeding, the care of young children, the care of mother and baby after childbirth, the care of the sick and infirm. It was not an identifiable or self-conscious occupation.50 Susan Reverby notes that in mid-19th century America, nursing tasks almost always took place in the home and were part of women’s « duty to care » for those they loved, not wage-earning work. « Caring and sacrifice » were a « poignant manifestation of female virtue ».51 « Obligation and love, not the need to work, were to bind the nurse to her patient. Caring was to be an unpaid labor of love ».52 In the new colony of New Zealand, a place of scattered settlements, no hospitals and few people, nursing was almost entirely a domestic and womanly duty.

« Wonderful women with practi9al knowledge of .nursing »: the emergence o nurstng as an occupatton

By the 1870s, colonial New Zealand was already undergoing rapid social change. Erik Olssen has described the shift from a pre-industrial or frontier society to a modern one as ongoing, but notes that the changes, including urbanisation, developing bureaucracies, and the dramatic fall in fertility rates probably affected women more than any other category of people. As work became more specialised, wider occupational opportunities emerged and women began to move from largely domestic service positions to others in emerging organisations like factories, offices and schools.1 This changing environment also allowed nursing to emerge as a distinct occupation, rather than as a labour of love.

« Suitable work for respectable women »: the transition to

trained female nurses, 1880-1901 David Thomson has argued that « New Zealand created a grudging and miserly public relief system by the standards of its own day », emphasising self-reliance and family responsibility for those in need.1 Certainly most settlers expected to be nursed at home in times of illness by relatives, friends or paid attendants. Some settlers, however, mainly men, were denied this form of care because of poverty, old age or isolation. They were obliged to seek nursing care from a variety of attendants, both male and female, who staffed the colony’s nascent hospitals. The first hospitals in the colony were established in the 1840s and by 1881, there were 36 institutions around the country.2 Most were very small and were staffed by married couples, the husband acting as steward, gardener, dispenser and warder to the male patients, while his wife cooked, cleaned, washed and nursed the few female patients. The larger institutions, however, gradually acquired a subordinate staff of warders or nurses or both.

Contents :

  • Page
  • List of tables
  • Abstract
  • Abbreviations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
    • Chapter 1: « Every woman is a Nurse »: the origins 10A of nursing in colonial New Zealand
    • Chapter 2: « Wonderful women with practical knowledge of nursing »: the emergence of nursing as an occupation
    • Chapter 3: « Suitable work for respectable women »: 48 the transition to trained female nurses,
    • Chapter 4: « All power over nursing [should be] 69 put in the hands of one trained female head »: the role of the matron in New Zealand hospitals
    • Chapter 5: « More a question of character than of 93 acquirement »: nurse training before World War
    • Chapter 6: Southern « Nightingales »: the first trained 132 nurses in New Zealand, ca
    • Chapter 7: « A readiness to endure cheerful discomfort
    • nd hardship at need »: working conditions for nurses in hospitals in New Zealand
    • Chapter 8: « Communities of warmth, encouragement and relaxing recreation »?: life within the nursing world in New Zealand
    • Chapter 9: Preserving « the true spirit of nursing »: 221 the challenges for nursing created by a new generation of nurses in the 1920s
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

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« ESSENTIALLY A WOMAN’S WORK »: A HISTORY OF GENERAL NURSING IN NEW ZEALAND, 1830-

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