The League was founded in 1899 by Isla Stewart, who became one of the founder members of the International Council of Nurses. Currently there are over 2,500 members of whom about 200 are scattered throughout the world.
In a very early edition of the League News Isla Stewart expressed her reasons for forming the League. These were:
- By union, to encourage the members to maintain a high standard of work and conduct. Regular re-occurring opportunities will enable the members to compare their work with that of others and give the chance to discuss difficulties with those whose opinions they value.
- For mutual help and pleasure.
- To promote the establishment of a fund for the relief of former nurses of the Hospital who are in distressed circumstances and need either temporary or permanent help.
We hope that we continue to reflect these ideals in the way that we conduct our work and social events.
We celebrated our Centenary in 1999 with various functions, culminating in a group of members, dressed in nurses' uniforms throughout the century, participating in the City of London Lord Mayor's Show. The float was warmly received by the enormous crowds, wishing us well for the next 100 years.
In 2008 the League Executive decided, in conjunction with the Kingston University Oral History Unit, to formally collect the memories of League members to ensure that a significant part of Barts nursing history is recorded before it is lost in the mists of time. Forty-five League members, who qualified at Barts between 1939 and the late 1980s, were interviewed, as well as a surgeon, Mr William Shand, and a physician, Professor James Malpas, in order to capture all aspects of nursing at Barts. All these interviews are in oral and written form and explore seventeen themes, including the war, Hill End, wards, nurses' homes, uniform and education.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Archives and Museum holds the historic records of the hospital itself, including records of nursing and nurse training at the hospital, as well as records of groups such as the League. They also accept some personal papers, photographs and other artefacts. Although they are unable to take in every donation offered, for reasons of space or duplication, they are always interested in acquiring new material, particularly related to the history of nursing and nurse training at the hospital from the 1960s onwards. If you have material which you think may be of interest to the archives or museum, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more about the collections, as well as a link to the online catalogue for the collections.