Tag Archives: archives

International Nurses’ Day

12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, is International Nurses’ Day, when people around the world celebrate the contribution that nurses make to society. We thought we would join in by sharing a story from our Special Collections about nurse training in the past.

A few of the autobiographies in our Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies recount experiences of nursing, including that of a male nurse in the 1930-50s, plus women who worked as nurses and housemaids at different times in their lives. This post will focus on Winifred Relph, who was born in 1912.

Winifred worked firstly as a housemaid after leaving school, then as a nurserymaid. She tried applying for nurse training at several London hospitals, but was told that her education wasn’t good enough, and advised to try small, provincial hospitals instead. Eventually she was accepted for training at Todworth General Hospital on the borders of Kent/Sussex.

As a probationer nurse she earned a salary of £20 a year and also had to supply much of her uniform, including:

  • 14 linen aprons
  • 6 stiff linen collars
  • 6 stiff linen cuffs
  • black woollen stockings
  • flat laceup black shoes

She lived on-site in the Nurses’ Home and shared a room with another probationer. Nurses’ rooms were inspected by the matron and expected to be kept as neat as on the ward. In the evenings the senior nurses played the piano and sang in the nurses’ sitting room.

She describes some of her typical tasks, such as starting each day with making thirty beds, with 90 seconds allowed for each bed (including removing the patient from it and putting them back again!). Nurses worked 12 hour shifts, including two hours off each day and three meal breaks. After six months of learning practical skills on the wards (Winifred worked on both the Children’s and Men’s wards) lectures on nursing theory were started, but unfortunately Winifred never got this far, as she became ill with acute rheumatism and was unable to carry on nursing.

Nursing only forms a small part of Winifred’s autobiography. You can find out more about different aspects of her life and writing at Writing Lives. Find out more about our other autobiographies on this blog.

 

50 objects 48: Elizabethan spies

leftspiesLong before James Bond, there was John Dee and a network of other spies drawn together by Francis Walsingham to serve Elizabeth I. Some research material on such spies in Shakespearian times is found in Brunel’s Holmes collection.

Edward Holmes researched into the authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare. He published Discovering Shakespeare: a handbook for heretics (Mycroft : 2001) which discusses the authorship in an accessible way through fictitious dialogue between two people. His research notes were given to Brunel University Library and are housed in Special Collections.  However, the notes are far more extensive than the subject of the book. There are files on many subjects related to Tudor and Elizabethan times, including language, gardens, music, and other literary men. As a tangent to this last, Holmes notes that there seems to be some overlap between writers of literature and drama, and spies or secret agents. leftlit-soldier-spy

Perhaps the most well-known example of this overlap is Christopher Marlowe. Here’s a page of Holmes’ notes on Marlowe’s death and related issues.

marlowe

Holmes goes on to amass a file of information on espionage and ciphers at this time, sometimes interweaving Shakespeare, and similarities to characters in Shakespeare’s plays, with details on other men. Much of the material is in note form and it tends to be brief and cryptic, but forms a basis for further study both of Elizabethan spies and of academic views on them at a particular time.

leftdoulande

There are notes on the life and work of individuals who may have been connected to the network of agents, and theories about their activities. Here Holmes notes information about “John Doulande”, John Dowland the musician who some suspect of being involved with espionage.

Much of the “espionage” file consists of attempts to draw together a unified picture of the web of intrigue at particular point in time, by charting names, places, contacts, and so forth. Below are three diagrams of such networks.

leftnetwork3leftnetwork2leftnetwork1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There seem to be no conclusive findings here, but many questions are raised and ideas generated for further study.

 

For more on the question of Shakespearian authorship, see the De Vere Society and the Shakespearian Authorship Trust.

For more on espionage and secret agents in this period, see

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/spying_01.shtml

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/spies/spies/standen/default.htm

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/who-were-elizabethan-spies.html

For more on John Dee, see the material surrounding the Royal College of Physicians’ exhibiton.

 

50 objects 42: William Belcher’s Navy service

One of the Burnett collection of working-class autobiographies held at Brunel is that of William Belcher (1884 – 1961).  He served in the Navy 1903 – 8 and 1914-19, and was an electrician from 1919 onwards. Much of the interest in his autobiography lies in the supporting documents that accompany the notebooks: his school certificates, shorthand qualifications, and his naval career record.

Here are a selection of the documents in question, giving insights not just into Mr Belcher’s history but into the history of education and into the record-keeping of the Royal Navy.

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50 objects 35: Railway posters

Nostalgic images of railway travel have been popularly recreated on everything from calendars to mouse mats, but once this approach to advertising the pleasures of the railway was fresh and new. Our Transport History collection holds several beautiful posters that look back to this time.

GreatWindsor1897

1897 poster promoting day travel to Ascot

Initially transport notices served a function, to give information about timetables or list rules of conduct. They were text heavy, with little in the way of images or embellishment. However, several things happened that changed the nature of these posters; the growth of tourism, increased competition amongst rival rail companies and the development of printing technologies. As railways networks grew and developed affordable travel was open to larger groups of people. Day trips and holidays further afield became a possibility and resort towns such as Blackpool flourished.

Tenby

1908 Print advertising the health resort of Tenby and its Golden Sands

Railway businesses proliferated in the late 19th century, in fact some locations had several lines running through them. The need to differentiate themselves and their assets became more important to railway enterprises in the drive to secure custom. The means to produce such enticements in the form of colour advertising posters with images was made more commercially viable with the development of colour lithography techniques that enabled mass production.

AirLikeWine1

Weston Super Mare’s intoxicating climate

 

Railway posters served not only to induce people to use a railway line, but to promote travel as a pleasurable end in itself.

Cornwall

Great Western Railways poster on the delights of Cornwall

 

Attractive images played an important role to evoke the romance of the rail or the attractive aspects of the destination, with sunshine, coastlines and leisure scenes as important components. Several early artists and illustrators, such as Norman Wilkinson and John Hassall became specialists in the field.

As railway travel boomed these images became a common sight in stations, but the quality of their design and composition make them a lasting pleasure today.  

50 0bjects 28: The Ladies Home Journal

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar

The Ladies Home Journal was an American monthly lifestyle magazine which was established in February 1883. By the turn of the century it was the leading women’s magazine in the US, and reached one million subscribers in 1903. Within our collection we hold editions spanning from 1939 to 1961, and studying the Journal allows us an insight into the attitudes and opinions of the time.

Persistent themes can be seen throughout the editions we hold; the most prominent of which is sexism. Advertisements frequently urge women to look their best for their husbands, as seen in an advert for Lady Esther cosmetics in the July 1939 edition, which states ‘the wrong shade of powder can turn the right man away’. Women are also advised on the best methods of keeping an orderly home. An Annual Report to Housewives, featured in the July 1961 edition, advertises the newest domestic appliances available, but exclusively addresses women. The article advises the reader to ‘ask a user what service she gets before you buy’; the assumption being that only women will ever use the domestic appliances. Moreover, adverts for domestic products universally feature women, and even when only a hand is shown, nail polish is used to ensure femininity is represented.

Another frequent theme is consumerism. Since the late 19th century, shopping had been changing from a functional role for women, to a leisured and respectable activity. Companies began to see women as the ‘chief purchasing power’ for households and the adverts seen in the Ladies Home Journal reflects this. In fact, the journal itself was enforcing the link between women and consumerism, which was further strengthen by technological inventions in the domestic sphere, allowing women to spend less time on the household and more time shopping. The most frequently advertised items in the Ladies Home Journal include new domestic appliances, make up products and cleaning products.

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However, apart from tracing overarching themes through the editions, we can also gain information on the reaction of the American public to specific historical events. An article in the July 1945 edition documents the shocked reaction of the American public to the discovery of extermination camps following the collapse of the Third Reich. It claims that a cynical world, which has lost morality, and is obsessed with power, was to blame, and urges the world to return to religion. Similarly, reactions to the signing of the United Nations Charter can be seen in the September 1945 edition, whereby an article surmises that the agreement signed at San Francisco will not eradicate greed, but ‘can keep the peace when the inevitable threats of war arise again’.

Though attitudes differ, the special features of the Journal are still recognisable in today’s magazines. Each month a novel segment was included, and Eleanor Roosevelt, like celebrities today, was a regular columnist, answering queries from financial woes to the most fashionable hairstyle. Similarly, interviews with Hollywood celebrities were a frequent trend, along with fashion segments. In later editions, ladies could receive advice from a medical column, and letters of readers were published within the magazine.

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50 objects 25: Library Staff Suggestions Book

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar.

In celebration of Brunel University’s 50th birthday, which is fast approaching on the 6th July, we thought we would share with you another item from the Library History Archive. In 1978, a staff suggestion book was created by the University Librarian Nick Childs, to allow library colleagues to have their say on how services could be improved.

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Library Staff Suggestion Book, 1978-1984.

 

The comments were recorded between 1978 and 1984, and offer a unique insight into the operations of an academic library in this era. Often borrowing books from the Library was a time consuming and arduous process. Before the existence of online record systems, Brunel University Library used an early computer form of automated library system, which read a student’s issue ticket and ticket held within the item they wanted to borrow, and copied them on to a tape which was printed every day for records. One colleague lamented about the complexity of issuing journals under this system, and in particular, was concerned about the difficulty of discharging journal articles if its ticket had fallen out, as was often the case. They suggested that journals should become reference only as a solution, and later on this was indeed the case. As expected, with barcodes now allowing paper journals articles to be easily discharged from our computer system, this is no longer a concern.

Nevertheless, the rise of the computer has not resolved all of the concerns from the 1970s and 80s. In 1978, a staff member refers to the frequency of checked out books being left behind on library desks. This is a common phenomenon even today. Likewise, a comment recorded in 1979 states ‘someone was disco dancing in the reading room at 5pm (till I saw him!)’. One staff member in 1978 had an enthusiastic way of describing the high noise levels in the Library and in verse declared:

‘Once upon a time,

Before the laughter pierced the silence,

And pattering tiny feet,

Thundered round in circles,

…….Library quiet had lingered,

Once upon a time’

Though I can’t say I have ever seen a student ‘disco-dancing’, we still have our fair share of noise complaints!

50 objects 16: Student newspapers and magazines

A post by Library Assistant (and former Brunel student) Oliver Thompson.

Fascinating snapshots of the history of Brunel over the past thirty odd years from the perspective of students themselves can be found within the pages of Brunel University student newspapers and magazines, which Special Collections hosts an archive of, with the oldest available issues dating back to February 1984.

Frequently candid and uncensored in scope and tone, Le Nurb has provided a platform for students to openly express their points of view on student life and the world at large, and each issue in the collection offers the curious reader glimpses of the student experience of the time, as well as a unique insight into the developing history of Brunel through the years. For Alumni they offer a warm feeling of nostalgia as one may recognise the names and faces contained within.

academyThe articles tell the history of many different aspects of the student experience, and often sought to encourage students to fully engage with the myriad of opportunities available to them during their time at Brunel, including coverage of various groups and societies, student union activities, the radio station, and guides to campus facilities such as the athletics centre and various bars.

The earliest issue in the collection is dated Thursday 2rd February 1984, containing articles on a2 feb 1984 Student Union Presidential candidate being disqualified for overspending on his promotional materials, features on important topics of the day such as animal experimentation and human rights, and reports on sports results from local fixtures (including Brunel beating Old Isleworthians 5 : 0 at hockey and Brunel 1st X1 beating Reading 1st X1 5 : 3 at football).

Some key moments for Brunel covered in later issues of Le Nurb include the one day strike that occurred on 15th January 1986, protesting the Government’s cuts in funding for Higher Education, the theft of £25,000 from the Midland Bank on campus that occurred in March 1986, and a 1988 visit by Labour’s then Education Equality 13th Nov 1986spokesperson Jack Straw, and the opening of the Athletics Centre in 2005. Other content in the magazines includes photo montages of students celebrating nights out at the Academy, lists of degree results for graduating students, reviews of concerts that occurred at Brunel, and letters from students debating topics such as politics, Student Union policies and tuition fees. Adverts for Brunel events evoke a sense of nostalgia, such as the 1984 Christmas Ball boasting music from reggae group Aswad and impressions from Rory Bremner.

Le Nurb was rebranded as Route 66 magazine between 1997 and 2005, and these issues are also in the collection. Since reverting back to the title Le Nurb, in recent years the student newspaper has expanded and established its own website which hosts more recent issues of the printed newspaper, and also maintains a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.