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Rebecca Strong (1843-1944)




Introduction

Mrs. Rebecca Strong, Matron, Glasgow Royal Infirmary (1879–1885 and 1891–1907)

Born in London in 1843 Rebecca Strong became a student of Florence Nightingale, enrolling in her school for nurses in St. Thomas’ Hospital London in 1867. She subsequently worked in hospitals in Winchester, Southampton and Dundee (where she was appointed matron of the Royal Infirmary). In 1879 she was appointed matron of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

On her arrival at the Royal Mrs. Strong immediately sought to improve the working conditions for the nurses in the hospital. She quickly persuaded the Board to provide suitable nurses uniforms and to re–furnish the wards. At this time William Macewen was engaged in his revolutionary work improving surgical practices. Mrs. Strong eagerly supported and assisted Macewen in this work. She continued to request further improvements from the Board which were generally granted. However, when in 1885 the Board refused her request to construct a nurses’ home (as they could not raise the necessary funds) she resigned.

Mrs. Strong was re–appointed matron in 1891 and on her return found that the nurses home had been built in her absence. However working and living conditions for nurses had deteriorated. She again turned her attention to improving the nurses’ lot. Mrs. Strong realised how important it was for nurses to keep pace with developments in medicine and surgery. Along with William Macewen she developed a course of training for nurses. In January 1893 a training school for nurses opened in the hospital. The course consisted of lectures by physicians and surgeons from the hospital and from Mrs. Strong herself as well as practical work. The course was extremely successful, raising the standard of nursing in the hospital and producing well trained, eager, enterprising nurses who spread the benefit of their training to many other hospitals. Indeed the school was so successful that it was studied and imitated in hospitals around the world.

After she retired from the Royal in 1907 Mrs. Strong continued to work for the improvement of the nursing profession. In 1918 she helped found the Scottish Nurses’ Club in Glasgow and in 1921 she was in the chair at the inaugural dinner for the Glasgow Royal Infirmary Nurses’ League. She continued to attend international congresses and to give interviews on the subject of nursing until a few years before her death. In recognition of her tireless work she was awarded the O.B.E. in 1939. She died, aged 101, in 1944.


Glasgow Royal Infirmary  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 14)

The minutes of the hospital  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 14/1) record Mrs. Strong’s attempts to improve conditions for nurses in the hospital and also her disagreements with medical staff. A yearly record of events can be found in the annual reports  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 14/2).

The collection also contains other material relating to Mrs. Strong including:

  • File containing correspondence and ephemera relating to and written by Mrs. Strong  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 14/6/97)
  • Photograph of Mrs. Strong with Matron and nurses outside the hospital taken c.1939  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 14/8/136)
  • 1893; ‘Introductory remarks to practical classes on ward work’, pamphlet written by Mrs. Strong  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 14/8/136)

Glasgow College of Nursing and Midwifery  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 95)

This collection contains material relating to a number of individual nurses, including Florence Nightingale, collected by the college. The material relating to Mrs. Strong includes:

  • Articles written by Mrs. Strong and texts of lectures.
  • Newspaper cuttings and notes relating to life of Mrs. Strong.  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 95/2)
  • 1930–1943; Correspondence.  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 95/3)
  • Memorabilia.  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 95/4)
  • Photographs.  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 95/5)

Further reading

Cope, Z., Six Disciples of Florence Nightingale, (London, 1961).

Jenkinson, J., Moss, M. & Russell, I., The Royal – The History of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 1794–1994, (Glasgow, 1994).

Thomas, M., Suggestions to improve the nursing in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, (Glasgow, 1877). This is a pamphlet written by the Superintendent of the hospital two years before Mrs. Strong became Matron. A copy can be found in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary collection  (NHSGGCA Ref: HB 14/9/39).