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

The wandering womb: Women's health nursing past and present

18 Oct 2018 - 22 Mar

RCN Library and Heritage Centre, 20 Cavendish Square, Marylebone, London, W1G ORN


Visit our current exhibition free at the Library and Heritage Centre.

Women have long been seen as at the mercy of their own biology. In the ancient medical world it was believed that a “wandering womb” could cause suffocation and death. Menstruation and childbearing were thought to make women weaker and less rational than men. Rising above these challenges, 100 years ago, women secured the right to vote in the UK. At the same time, nursing was formalised as a largely female profession. Since then, nurses have taken a leading role in challenging generalisations about women’s health. However, myths and misconceptions remain widespread, while medical and social changes have altered our biology as well as attitudes. 

This exhibition addresses what has been seen as “normal” for women, past and present, and why women’s health has long been considered “dirty” nursing.

Visitor information

All our exhibitions are free to visit. 

Opening hours are Monday - Friday 9am - 7pm, and Saturdays 9am - 5pm.

You can also view the exhibition content online.

See a list of events coming up as part of this series on women's health nursing.

The venue is fully wheelchair accessible with a lift down to the lower ground floor exhibition space. We offer large print guides of exhibition content and transcription of sounds clips. Assistance dogs are welcome.

If you have any other needs, please email us at and we will assist you wherever possible.

Don't miss our next exhibition Aspects of Age, which launches on Thursday 11 April. 


RCN Library and Heritage Centre
20 Cavendish Square

20 Cavendish Square is located behind John Lewis, Oxford Street.


The nearest stations are Oxford Circus and Bond Street.


There are many buses routes that stop nearby, including the 10, 25, 55, 73, 98 and 390.

Page last updated - 18/03/2019