Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Dear Father revisited

I've written previously about the social status of members of the 'Regular' QAIMNS service, and in June I commented this extract from a book by Penny Starns:

'Military nurses were recruited primarily from the ranks of officers' wives, widows and daughters, and this elitist recruitment practice, combined with royal patronage, ensured that the military nursing services occupied a prestigious position within the profession overall'

Doubting that most of these women were the daughters of army officers (there were definitely no wives or widows after 1902) I've now done a little more work on the profession of the fathers of those women who joined the service between its inauguration in March 1902 and the outbreak of the Great War (August 4th 1914).
There were 495 women who were appointed to Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service during this period, and I've fitted them in to one of fifty-eight occupational categories. As I have worked from the applicant's own description of her father's profession, there are varied descriptions of what is likely to be a similar job. For instance, I've used 'Minister of the Church' to include 'clergyman', 'clerk in holy orders', 'Weslyan minister' etc., and similarly 'Merchant' encompasses a multitude of trading - yarn, silk, gold and silver, corn, iron, wine, granite etc; the list is very long, but does not include shopkeepers, who were not very numerous in the list.
I found that of those fifty-eight categories, the top five accounted for half of the 495 women, and the top ten covered 350 in total - here are the top five:

Minister of the Church - 60
Farmer - 57
Merchant - 49
Army Officer - 46
Doctor/Surgeon - 35

There is no bottom five as such; twenty-three fathers have a profession unique to the list, and they include a museum curator, lithographer, a public analyst, the manager of a salmon fishery and a Writer to the Signet (I'll leave that to Google!).
This is a rough and ready appraisal, but certainly shows that there was considerable diversity in the background of QAIMNS nurses which probably veered rather more to peace and love than to war.

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