Ethel Gordon Fenwick

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Ethel Gordon Fenwick (née Manson; 26 January 1857 – 13 March 1947) was a British nurse who played a major role in the History of Nursing in the United Kingdom. She campaigned to procure a nationally recognised certificate for nursing, to safeguard the title "Nurse", and lobbied Parliament to pass a law to control nursing and limit it to "registered" nurses only.


She was born Ethel Gordon Manson in the Morayshire town of Elgin in Scotland, the daughter of a wealthy doctor who died early in her life. Ethel's mother then married George Storer, a Member of Parliament. She was educated privately at Middlethorpe Hall, Middlethorpe, Yorkshire. At the age of 21 she commenced nurse training at the Children's Hospital in Nottingham as a paying probationer nurse, and then at Manchester Royal Infirmary. Her expertise was soon noted and it was not long before she left for London, where she worked in hospitals in Whitechapel, and Richmond.

In 1881, at the age of 24, Ethel was appointed Matron of St Bartholomew's Hospital, a post she held until 1887 when she resigned her post to marry Dr Bedford Fenwick, becoming known professionally as Mrs Bedford Fenwick.[1]

Former residence of Ethel Gordon Fenwick with blue plaque

She was instrumental in founding Florence Nightingale International Foundation, the premier foundation of the International Council of Nurses, and was its president for the first five years. She extended significantly the training period for nurses, and campaigned for the state registration of nurses in the United Kingdom. This was achieved through the Nurses Registration Act 1919, and Ethel Gordon Fenwick appears as "Nurse No. 1" when the register opened in 1923. (New Zealand had been the first country to introduce nurse registration in 1902, when Ellen Dougherty became the first registered nurse in the world.)

Ethel 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.

In 1999 an English Heritage "blue plaque" was attached to her former home at 20 Upper Wimpole Street, London.[2]

See also[edit]

British nursing matrons from the 19th century


  1. ^ Hector, Winifred (1973). The Work of Mrs. Bedford Fenwick and the Rise of Professional Nursing. London: Royal College of Nursing.
  2. ^ Plaques of London: Ethel Gordon Fenwick


External links[edit]