arrow_up-blue blog branches consultations events facebook-icon facebook-icon2 factsheet forum-icon forum hands key link location lock mail measure menu_plus news pdf pdf2 phone policies publications related search share subjectguide twitter-icon word instagram-icon youtube-icon

100 years of activism

 Cecilia Anim CBE 15 Jan 2016 Cecilia Anim

Lessons from the past tell us we are stronger when united, says RCN President Cecilia Anim

RCN march

Since the RCN archives were established in 1986, they have grown to include almost 700 oral history recordings, 4,000 badges and medals and 10,000 photographs and images.

It's home to thousands more publications, that, if stacked on top of each other, would soar 600 metres high.

These records are the basis of a new exhibition in our Library and Heritage Centre. The exhibition, calledThe Voice of Nursing, is a unique opportunity to see, at close hand, objects that represent milestones in the proud history of our profession.

Notable items include a glass pulse-timer used by Dame Sarah Swift, one of our founders, during the First World War, and a silk purse, sewn by a member and presented to our first Royal Patron, Queen Mary, in 1930.

While viewing the exhibition, I was struck by just how far nursing has come in 100 years. A ward sister in 1916 would scarcely recognise the range of specialisms, or the variety of procedures practised by a highly skilled modern nurse today.

It’s also clear that RCN members, like you, have been at the forefront of every positive change experienced by our profession since 1916.

It was, after all, RCN members like you who lobbied for a register of qualified nurses in 1916 to ensure standardised nurse education.

It was you who joined our first public pay campaign in 1962, when nurses’ wages fell to 60 per cent below the average salary.

And it was you who pushed for nursing to become an all-graduate profession, paving the way for the standards of patient care we know today.

There are even greater challenges facing nursing in 2016 – the low pay you receive, the long hours you work and the lack of staffing on busy wards. History tells us that only by coming together and using the collective voice of 435,000 members can we really make change for the better.

The Voice of Nursing: Celebrating 100 years of the RCN is available to view online. It is free and open to members and the general public at the RCN Library & Heritage Centre, 20 Cavendish Square, London W1G ORN. 

Cecilia Anim

Cecilia Anim CBE

Former RCN President


Cecilia works as a clinical nurse specialist in sexual and reproductive health in London and specialises in family planning and aspects of women's health. She was elected RCN President in 2015, having been a member for more than 30 years, and was made a CBE in the 2017 New Year honours.

Page last updated - 05/09/2018