A celebration of the life and work of the first ever State Registered Nurse was attended by the Dean of Southwell, a former nurse and midwife, and senior nursing professionals from around the UK.
Ethel Bedford Fenwick (1857-1947) spent her formative years at Thoroton Hall in Nottinghamshire and is buried at St Helena’s church, where the service was held on Sunday afternoon. Her great granddaughter, Harriette travelled to the church especially for the occasion.
Ethel campaigned for over 30 years for the establishment of a register for nurses. She was a committed suffragist and agent for change, including the system of three years training for registered nurses and good working conditions.
The Rev’d Bryony Wood said: “We saw a real miracle of transformation this week in Thoroton church when a small army of people worked so hard to restore the church to its original beauty. Last week it was still a full of building rubble after months of significant structural work and on Sunday 12th March it was restored to its full glory, filled with beautiful flowers, a superb afternoon tea and lots of people! The sun shone in through the stained glass windows including the one installed by Ethel and her family in memory of their parents. We laid a fresh bouquet of purple white and green on her grave in her memory and filled the church with those, her favourite colours. We were thrilled that Ethel’s great granddaughter travelled to join us and so many senior figures from the nursing world who took the time and trouble to come to the service. They travelled from across the country and together we celebrated the life and legacy of Ethel Gordon Fenwick and the care and compassion of nurses everywhere today.”
The Dean, the Very Revd Nicola Sullivan, commented: “As a Bart’s trained nurse, I felt so proud to be part of Sunday’s special service. In Ethel Bedford Fenwick we have celebrated an inspirational nurse who was doggedly determined to effect change for the better. Although it is nearly 25 years since I left nursing and midwifery to begin ordination training, I have always been thankful for my professional background, and those amazing pioneer women who fought for proper training, regulation and the highest of care standards.”
Press release and photos from the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham