Thoroughly modern Mildred Charlotte Milman, Matron at St Alban's Hospital (1905-12)

2020 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and this year perhaps more than any other we are reminded of her life and contribution to the nursing profession. Nightingale hospitals have been built throughout the country to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and many nurses working on those wards will have received their training at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London.

In the 19th century Florence Nightingale was a leading figure in the inception of professional training for nurses and the school that still bears her name has its origins in the Nightingale School established at St Thomas’s Hospital in 1860.

At the outset, the intake was a mix of ‘a common class woman’ who on completion would work in a home or institution and ‘an upper-class woman or lady’ who would be given the opportunity to assist in the school on completing her studies.

By the 1890s it seems that the school only admitted gentlewomen ‘who may desire to qualify themselves in the practice of hospital nursing with the express object of entering upon the profession permanently by eventually filling superior situations in public hospitals and infirmaries, or by nursing the poor at their own homes under some organised system of district nursing’.

Those applying had to be over 24 but no older than 33 years of age and be single or widowed ‘without encumbrances’. They trained at St Thomas’s, receiving instruction from the medical instructor, the ‘home’ sister and the hospital sisters and served as assistant nurses on the wards as part of their training. Those that passed satisfactorily through the course of instruction were entered in the Register of Nightingale Nurses and were known as ‘Nightingales’.

One of those gentlewomen determined on a professional career in nursing in 1896 was Mildred Charlotte Milman who paid £30 to study on the year-long course and nine years later was appointed matron at St Albans and Mid-Herts Hospital in Verulam Road. In doing so she fulfilled the ambitions and purpose of the Nightingale School but records show that she was not a model student: ‘Miss Mildred Milman is an educated gentlewoman, more theoretical than practical and not a thoroughly good worker. She is very kind and unsparing in her attentions to patients.’

Mildred was 25 when she began her training, having worked as an occupational nurse at the County of Sussex Hospital in Brighton. Subsequently, she worked as a theatre nurse, possibly at St Thomas’s, and then sister at Birmingham General Infirmary before moving to St Albans.

She was born in Guildford in 1871. Her father Lieut-Colonel Everard Stepney Milman RHA was Governor of Hollowayand Newgate prisons for 25 years and her uncle, General Sir Brian Milman, was Governor of the Tower of London for over 30 years. Her maternal great-grandfather was Sir Francis Milman, president of the Royal College of Physicians in 1811.

As matron in St Albans, Mildred Milman was in charge of a hospital with 21 beds and 3 cots. The number of in-patients in 1909 was 279 and out-patients 1,063. Who knows where her career might have taken her, but her work in St Albans brought her into contact with the distinguished and debonair Dr Henry Lipscomb, Honorary Medical Officer for her hospital and, dear reader, she married him.

A full-referenced version of this note is available via the Society’s Library.

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