It was so great to be back in Nova Scotia for the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing Conference! Especially as it was my first CAHN conference that wasn’t held jointly with the CSHM as part of the Congress of Social Sciences and Humanities.
My paper “The Nursing Workforce at British Naval Hospitals in Haslar and Plymouth 1770-1800,” gave me the first chance to make some comparisons between Haslar and Plymouth from nursing pay list records. Although this analysis is still in the preliminary stages I hope to soon have the rest of the Haslar records added to the nursing database.
The full conference program is available here. Thank you to the Nova Scotia Nursing History Group and Gloria Stephens for organizing the conference!
I’m going to be presenting twice at #Congressh2018 this year! My first meeting is with the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine, where I will be discussing the medical care provided for nurses in eighteenth and early nineteenth century naval hospitals.
Join me bright and early on Monday, May 28th!
G1: Being Nurses 9:00-10:00 am
Chair: Frank Stanisch, University of Calgary LI 111
“Nursing the Nurses: Medical Care for Nurses in British Naval Hospitals 1790-1815/ Soigner les infirmières : soins médicaux pour les infirmières britanniques dans les hôpitaux de la marine 1790-1815” Erin Spinney, University of Saskatchewan*
“‘We have to remember there was a past’: A first glimpse of the Saskatchewan Nursing Oral History Collection 1950-2010/‘Souvenons-nous qu’il y a eu un passé’: Un premier aperçu de la Collection d’histoire orale des infirmières et des infirmiers de la Saskatchewan entre 1950 et 2010” Meghan Bend, Megan Hewson, Helen Vandenberg, University of Saskatchewan
My PhD dissertation is now available for download from the University of Saskatchewan eCommons website. Thank you to my committee members and co-supervisors for their help in completing this work!
This dissertation analyses the work of female nurses in military and naval hospitals from the mid eighteenth century until the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars in the early nineteenth century. Nursing history has primarily forgotten these women, or when they do enter into historical narratives, it is often as a foil when compared to the medical practitioner. Pre-Nightingale nurses are often framed by nursing historians as ineffective, ignorant drunkards, the embodiment of the Dickensian Sairey Gamp stereotype. By examining why medical practitioners and naval and military administrators decided to hire female nurses, it is possible to explore two frameworks of investigation in this dissertation. First, the importance of nurses to eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century military and naval clinical hospitals, was shown in official correspondence, regulations, and medical treatises. Examining the crucial role of nurses in maintaining a healthy healing environment through cleanliness and ventilation reintegrates nurses into a previously male medical practitioner dominated narrative. In Britain, both patient care and domestic duties were viewed, societally, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as distinctly female skills. At West Indian stations, the ideal nurses were also female. Yet, the additional layer of race and accompanying theories of racialized immunity to tropical diseases, combined with the stratified labour market of the islands, meant that Black women were considered by medical practitioners to be the best nurses. These considerations resulted in the employment of enslaved women at the Bermuda Naval Hospital. Second, I counter historiographical preconceptions about pre-Nightingale nursing through a detailed prosopographical analysis of the nursing workforce at Plymouth Naval Hospitals, in conjunction with the nursing regulations for military and naval medical systems of care. As the experiences of nurses of Plymouth Naval Hospital show, the physical stability of naval hospitals allowed for nurses to develop healing and care skills over a period of longstanding employment. These nurses were not, as the historiographical prejudice contends, primarily thieves and drunkards. Furthermore, a comparison of military and naval regulations demonstrates that the regulatory structure of naval hospitals, and the position of nurses in them, cannot be explained merely by the permanence of their institutions. Nursing and nurses were part of a broader professionalization of healing practices in the second half of the eighteenth century. As complex institutions, naval hospitals only functioned when everyone’s role in the hospital was clear. In the army, by contrast, the role of nurses was less explicit and not carefully delineated. When recollecting the pre-Nightingale period of nursing, it is often the military nurses who are recalled by nursing historians – women seen even at the time as replaceable, untrained, and unnecessary. Reconfiguring our view to include the naval nurse – valued, crucial to hospital operation, and with a defined role – complicates the long-standing progressivist account of nursing after Nightingale to illustrate continuity between the two periods.
I had a busy time at Congress 2016 in Calgary, Alberta! On Friday May 26th I attended the Canadian Writing Centre Association’s “Energising (Writing Centre) Communities” held at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. For my work at the University of Saskatchewan Writing Centre I was fortunate to have my attendance sponsored and to receive a travel grant from the CWCA.
The following day marked the start of the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine Meeting at the University of Calgary. It was as always an exciting, fun, and stimulating meeting of historians of medicine and health.
Our panel “British Naval Medicine, State Control, and Authority in the Long Eighteenth Century,” was moderated by Dr. Whitney Wood of the University of London. My paper was entitled “Carers for the Sick or Drunken Accessories to Desertion? Nursing at Plymouth and Haslar Naval Hospitals, 1790-1815,” and featured a discussion of the dual role and perception of nurses who depending on the pressures of the navy and patient need, could either be viewed as trusted regulators of order or drunken accessories to desertion. The panel also contained papers by Dr. Geoffrey Hudson (Lakehead): “Not Suffering Saints: Mutiny in the Royal Greenwich Hospital, 1705-50,” and Dr. Matthew Neufeld (Saskatchewan): “The Birth of Biopolitics in Early Modern England: Manning The Royal Navy: 1690-1710.”
The ASEH was held in Seattle, Washington from March 30-April 3rd. The full program may be found here. Check out the the conference hashtag #ASEH2016 on Storify. Find out more about my University of Saskatchewan colleagues who attended ASEH here. I would like to thank the ASEH for generously providing me with travel funding.
This conference was such a delight that it is hard to pick out the highlights. It was great to meet so many other scholars with similar interests and such fascinating work. I particularly enjoyed the plenary session on teaching environmental history to undergraduates, especially how to integrate environmental history into both the classroom space and the tremendous potential of the field for outdoor field trips.
Several panels and a roundtable considered the intersections of the history of medicine and environmental history. Highlights for me include:
Climate, Politics, and the Body in the U.S. South
Chair: Conevery Bolton Valencies, University of Massachusetts-Boston
“Yellow Fever, Ecology, and American State Power, 1803-1820” by Kathryn Olivarius, University of Oxford
“‘Hot, Hotter, and Hottest’: Climate, Debility, and the Search for Therapeutics in the Antebellum Gulf South” by Elaine LaFay, University of Pennsylvania
“The ‘Italian Experiment’: Race and Labor in the Post-emancipation South, 1880-1920” by Jason Hauser, Mississippi State University
The connections between ideas of debility, radicalised conceptions of disease, and changing ideas of climatic harshness and my own work on enslaved African and Creole nurses in the West Indies provoked many questions about late-eighteenth and nineteenth century British/American medicine.
Rethinking the Nature of Health: Intersections between Environmental History and the History of Medicine
Moderator: Matthew Kingle, Bowdoin College
Dawn Bieler, University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Elena Conis, Emory University
Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Christopher Sellers, Stony Brook University
Ellen Griffith Spears, University of Alabama
Sarah Whitney Tracy, University of Oklahoma
In this roundtable environmental historians, historical geographers, historians of medicine, and scientists, considered the intersections between environmental history and the history of medicine. Paying particular attention to preconceptions of disciplinary boundaries and suggesting ideas to move past these boundaries to promote a fruitful discussion of health, disease, the body, and environment. It gave me a lot to think about, especially the connections I see in my own work on nurses and preventative medicine in the eighteenth century and how this environmental work can be situated at the intersections of these two historical fields of study.