This week the appointment of our first Professors of Nursing and Midwifery have been announced by the University. Professor Jayne Marshall joins as Foundation Professor of Midwifery and Professor David Clarke as Foundation Professor of Nursing, as new degree programme are announced in both disciplines. While this will be the first time that midwifery courses have been offered since we became a University in 1957, midwives were trained at University College Leicester for nearly 20 years up to 1947.
The first reference to midwifery training in the Annual Reports can be found in 1928, when it was recorded that application had been made to the College to take over the supervision of training midwives in Leicester certified by the Central Midwives’ Board (CMB). The report concluded that ‘a scheme was worked out which is functioning satisfactorily’ (ULA P/AR/7, p. 14). At this time, the role of Honorary Director of Medical Studies was fulfilled by Dr Astley Clarke, a key figure in our early history. By 1932, the number of pupil midwives attending lectures organised by the College stood at 48, with the numbers passing the CMB from hospitals in the city recorded as 42.
There were further developments in the provision of midwifery training towards the end of the decade, as the College Council assumed full responsibility for the administration of training pupil-midwives in Leicester. The first Tutor in Midwifery was appointed in 1939, Miss Q. M. Anstice. The annual report for that year explains the arrangements:
Under the revised regulations of the Central Midwives Board pupils have to spend a longer period in training and pass two examinations. For State registered nurses the period of training is one year, the First Examination being taken at the end of six months. For other nurses the period of training is two years, the First Examination being taken at the end of 18 months. (ULA P/AR/18, p. 23)
Training for the First Examination was carried out at the General Hospital and Leicester and Leicestershire Maternity Hospital, and for the Second Examination at the Westcotes Hospital. According to the report, on realising that the period of training was about to increase, pupils entered in greater numbers than usual before the new regulations came into force. As a result, only four pupils entered in October 1938, and eight the following April. By 1941 numbers were increasing, with 19 new entrants that year and 5 proceeding to the second period of training. Numbers continued to grow, and in 1943 there were 73 who entered for the first period of training, and 28 for the second period. 23 students completed their course during the year, and it was reported that:
All pupils taking the second period of training received instruction in gas and air analgesia and were awarded the hospital certificate after passing a practical and oral test. (ULA P/AR/21, p. 14)
By now, a second tutor had been appointed to assist Miss Anstice, Miss J. R. Hillier. There were, however, signs that the arrangement was not meeting with the satisfaction of all parties. In 1943 Astley Clarke complained that many of those who began training did so to obtain a better-paid nursing post, and not to become midwives. At the annual meeting of the Court of Governors, Clarke commented that:
Many of them say they are going to take Part 2, but when they become practising midwives they shy after one year at being called out of bed in the middle of the night, and don’t go on. They are purely taking the CMB diploma to get a better salary or position in the nursing world. No one can become a matron without holding the CMB certificate. We ought not to accept such people as we could fill the course with those who would go on. (ULA/PCB/2, p. 228, Leicester Evening Mail, 23 July 1943).
Midwifery training continued to be overseen by the College for just a few more years. On 8 January 1947 a meeting of the Midwifery Training Committee was held to consider the arrangements to be made for terminating the scheme and handing it over to the Hospitals Authorities. Frederick Attenborough, the Principal, raised concerns about the impact on the two tutors and gave the opinion that they should not be given less than a term’s notice to alleviate the hardship caused by the termination of their contracts. He also expressed his regret that ‘conditions had prevented the pupils under training from sharing in the life of the College’ (ULA/M30, Minutes of the Midwifery Training Committee, 8 January 1947). It was agreed that the scheme should be terminated on 31 July 1947, and that the salaries of Miss Anstice and Miss Hillier be paid up until 31 August. However, at a meeting the following month both tutors tendered their resignations and it was agreed to terminate the programme a few months early on 13 April. Despite the reservations of Astley Clarke, during Word War 2 pupil-midwives comprised a significant proportion of the students registered with the University College, many of them no doubt going onto successful careers in local hospitals in the early years of the NHS.