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Time Travelling Through the lens of the RCN Annual Reports

 Porshia Boafo 18 Jan 2018 Library

We are currently digitising the RCN Annual Reports, and have uncovered some fun facts along the way. Porshia Boafo takes us on a journey and tells us more.

Time travelling
Since 2017, we have been digitizing the Royal College of Nursing Annual Reports. The RCN Annual Reports give us a rare glimpse into some of the key organizational, political and social changes that have occurred during the past 101 years. The objective of this project is to have all print reports published between 1917-2002 digitized, readily assessable via PDF and searchable.

Each decade had its individual triumphs and challenges, well documented within the Annual Reports. Here are some fun facts and notable events recorded in the reports from 1920-1970.

‘4’ In 1920, the RCN introduced the Disabled Nurses grant scheme. This grant primarily helped Nurses pay for training fees and to fund other expenses. A grant like this would have been progressive for its time and was recorded to have benefited many members. Since its infancy, the College of Nursing have always championed inclusivity and diversity.

Throughout the 1930s, the RCN Annual Reports were supplemented alongside the Nursing Times. (An issue of the Nursing Times cost two pence in 1930!) This meant that the reports often featured glossy advertisements, advising Nurses on dress, diet and the latest state-of-the-art home décor.

Published in 1940, the 25th annual report was dominated by the success of the previous year, which saw the implementation of our ‘Royal’ title, bestowed by King George VI. Concerns felt regarding WW2 were also addressed at the beginning of the report. The report detailed how College buildings sustained minor damages due to the War, but remained largely intact despite the buildings being in ‘close vicinity of enemy action’.

Remaining poised during times of adversity, RCN president Mary Jones OBE stressed that although resources were scarce, the College’s focus was to continue to assist ‘the exigence of the present Nursing situation’. The notion to ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’ was very much the underlying message within the 1940 Annual Report. 

A decade later, the 35th RCN Annual Report was published and documented the celebration of the first Founder’s Day held on April 1st, in Manchester, paying homage to the location of the first branch.  

The 1960 Annual account was dominated by the momentous decision to open membership to men and all nurses ‘on any part of the General Nursing Council in England and Wales’. RCN President Margaret Smyth, explained how the expansion of membership was a ‘great step forward’. The Report further detailed that the year 1960 marked the Centenary of the formation of ‘Nightingale School’ the first training school for Nurses in England.

By 1970 membership had risen to just over 69,800. The Raise the Roof campaign, dominated the preliminary pages of the Report, as the fight for fair pay intensified in the early 70’s. The Raise the Roof campaign resulted in Nurses receiving a 20% pay increase and was one of many campaigns which reinforced the RCN’s reputation for being ‘The Voice of Nursing’. 

Time travelling through the lens of the RCN Annual Reports has been insightful and has affirmed that the RCN have stayed true to its core principles ever since the publication of its first Annual Report. The RCN Annual Reports will continue to capture the story of each decade and narrate the fantastic organizational achievements at the RCN. 


Porshia Boafo

Author of this guide

RCN Library and Archive Services

Page last updated - 05/09/2018