This thesis is a study of general hospital nurses in England, 1881-1914. It concentrates on the experiences of the rank and file nurse, rather than the 'politics' of the occupation. Using original hospital records and oral evidence collected for this study, this thesis examines why it was that some women chose Nursing in preference to other areas of contemporary work for women, and what type of woman made that choice. The formal and informal training processes are discussed to demonstrate the distinctions made by contemporaries between Nursing Theory and Practice, and between Nursing Science and Art. These features of Nursing are examined for the ways in which they served to explain contemporary nursing tasks and roles. The award of a hospital certificate to the trained general nurse is seen as a mark of occupational prestige and as a reward for undergoing the training processes. The occupation status accorded the general hospital trained nurse is demonstrated by reference to the postgraduate career choices of contemporary nurses and by reference to contemporary literature and nurse-characterisations therein. The thesis is, therefore, a preliminary attempt to reorientate historical overviews of the 'development' of Nursing, which many lead to a reappraisal of the value of Nursing history, not only to the occupation itself but to other historians, in particular those concerned with women in contemporary society.
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