Nurses, politicians and philanthropists alike realised their shared vision for a platform to regulate and progress the practice of nursing. This early idea grew to be a strong fellowship to which nurses at the time gravitated, and still do today
1969 First meeting of Congress in Harrogate
And so whilst our founding principles remain the same, the group of founder members looks very different to the diversity of people that make up our membership today.
Now, 100 years later, we have an extensive fellowship of all the very right sort of people, from across the UK. This wide-reaching community owes itself to the early ambitions of our founders.
The College was co-founded by Sarah Swift and Arthur Stanley, with a vision to promote high standards in nursing by regulating education.
Dame Sarah Swift
Standing at just 4’11” Sarah Swift had immense force of personality and a sharp sense of humour. She was known as ‘the mighty atom’ for her energy and enterprise. As well as the College’s founder and first member, Swift was Matron-in- Chief of the Nursing Division of the Joint War Committee. She became a Dame in 1919 for her wartime work.
Opening brochure for 20 Cavendish Square, 1926. This booklet was produced for the opening of the College building and contains photographs of the rooms that still exist here in HQ today.
“Please let my name go on [the membership register] as high up as possible...I would like it to be the first”
Despite her best efforts, Rachael Cox-Davies became the second member of the College. She is said to be single-handedly responsible for persuading Lady Cowdray to fund a new home for the College in the early 1920s. Apparently, in a ten-minute taxi journey she told Lady Cowdray of the soaring membership numbers and asked if she would gift the College a new building for educational facilities. Lady Cowdray, already a strong supporter of the College, agreed.
“[we need] a Trade Union among nurses without the difficulties of Trade Unionism”
Matron of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Gill at first was not sure she could support the College. She felt registration was the most important issue facing nursing. When reassured the College would press for this, she became member four and a representative on the Scottish Board.
“A good beginning has been made. The College may look forward with courage and quiet confidence to further progress”
The College’s founding Secretary. When her nursing officer fiancé tragically died before their wedding day, Rundle at once devoted her life to nursing. She organised some of the earliest post-graduate courses for nurses and started her own nursing library. She started the Federated Superannuation Scheme for Nurses – a saving scheme for nurses’ pensions.
Today, this membership has grown in breadth and diversity yet the initial aims of the College still stand. We continue to represent and support members, influence policy and develop nursing research and education. The founding members ensured its place in the ever more complex and demanding nursing world.