Ministering Angels

‘God’s work more than ours’. In the first of three articles looking at the image of professional women at work, Anne Summers considers the tension between spiritual and material motivations in Victorian nursing and social reform.

, a secularizer, literally sweeping away cobwebs of ignorance and irresponsibility from public institutions; a promoter of professional training for women; an apostle of statistical surveys; a tireless worker for government commissions and legislative enactment. Her work survives in the structures of barracks, hospitals and nurse training schools. But the 'nursing legacy', as one recent study has termed it, in fact consists of a far more complex and contradictory set of values than are implied in this Whig litany.


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