Sarah Swift

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Dame Sarah Ann Swift, GBE, RRC (22 November 1854, Kirton Skeldyke, Lincolnshire – 27 June 1937, Marylebone) was a nurse and founder in 1916 of the Royal College of Nursing,[1] thereby introducing Nurse registration.

Early life[edit]

She was born on the Blossom Hall Estate at Kirton Skeldyke in Holland, Lincolnshire, the daughter of a tenant farmer.

Previously, she had been Matron of Guy's Hospital (1901–09), then retired, but in the First World War she returned to this position for the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem in England.

Royal College of Nursing[edit]

With help from the Hon. Arthur Stanley (Chairman of the War Committee) she set up the College of Nursing. A letter was sent out to all the training hospitals outlining the idea pointing out that although there was disagreement on issues relating to registration there was a need to coordinated nursing and all trained nurses should unite in one democratic organisation with the power in the hands of the membership.

By 1918 there were 13,000 Members. They elected the first council and set up Centres (later to be called Branches). The College of Nursing later became the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) modelled on the Royal College of Physicians and surgeons. On 27 March 1916 the College of Nursing was registered. It became the Royal College of Nursing in 1947.


In 1919 she was made Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) for her services to nursing.


A ward at St Thomas Hospital is named after her.[citation needed]


  1. ^ McGann, Susan. "Swift, Dame Sarah Ann". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/49194. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)


  • McGann, Susan (1992). Battle of the Nurses: a study of eight women who influenced the development of professional nursing 1880-1930. London: Scutari. ISBN 1-871364-62-0.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sidney Browne
President of the Royal College of Nursing
1922 - 1925
Succeeded by
Annie Warren Gill