The battle for the Bill

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In December 1919, a woman sat in the public gallery of the House of Commons to watch MPs vote on a bill. She was a nurse, and she had been campaigning for this legislation for more than 30 years. Her name was Ethel Bedford Fenwick, and MPs were voting on the Nurses Registration Bill.

A good part of the delay had been generated by supporters of registration themselves. There had been division and discord, personalities and pique, and competing publications protesting alternative points of view. The constant throughout the story - as editor, campaigner, objector and faction leader - was Ethel Bedford Fenwick.

A nurse with a mission
Born in Elgin, Scotland, in 1857, Ethel Gordon Manson moved to Thoroton Hall in the Vale of Belvoir, near Nottingham, as a child.1 Manson's nursing career began in 1878, when she started her training at the Children's Hospital in Nottingham, before moving to the Royal Infirmary, Manchester, then to London, to become a ward sister at The London Hospital, Whitechapel. In 1881, Ethel Manson was appointed Matron of St Bartholomew's Hospital, London,2 at the age of 24.


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