Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

‘Be Good, Sweet Maid’: Sister Probationer Nora Barton at the Sydney Infirmary, 1869-72

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2001), 80, (1), 141–156.

Abstract

In 1869, Nora Barton chose to become one of the new ‘Nightingale nurses’ at Sydney Infirmary. She entered as a ‘Sister Probationer’, one who underwent training not so much to nurse, but to supervise nurses. Ideally, the sister probationers were upper middle class, Protestant, and conformed to the Nightingale image of reformed nursing. Barton was an ideal recruit as a sister probationer. Her experience provides an insight into Nightingale nursing as it adapted to Australian conditions, and helps explain why the English, class-based ideal of the sister probationer did not survive. Nora Barton’s experience also offers a different perspective on the choices available to her and other middle class women. From our modern perspective, women like Barton had very restricted life choices. From the perspective of Nightingale and the founders of Nightingale nursing, colonial women not only had more choice than their British counterparts, they had too much choice.

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Author details

Godden, Judith

Table of Contents

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