Hospital History: A Stooshie with Matron

Illustrated by Cate James

What various parties in the dispute had to say, paraphrased by Linda Cracknell

The men all thought Matron was fine, but the nurses didn't like her and she drank all the wine.

Somewhat of a simplification perhaps, but our adventures in the archives revealed disquiet with the Matron at Meadowside House, Mrs Snowden. It was discovered that her mother had been resident in the hospital for five years, and a significant amount of wine had been consumed. The Ladies' Committee and the nurses were up in arms. The Directors' investigation came to a head in late 1879 and resulted in her resignation the following year. The range of sometimes conflicting views are represented in Cate's drawing and my words above.

Number of patients

Wine bill
Great Ormond Street


The evidence: Some of  Mr Mackenzie's figures after conducting a survey of wine use in British children's hospitals on behalf of the Gentlemen Directors.  

From the Constitution February 1860:

'...the matron shall be without encumbrance and at the time of her appointment between the ages of 30 and 45 ... she shall keep a book containing a daily account of all wines, spirits and porter ordered for and distributed to the patients, and of all other articles received and consumed in the hospital.'

From the Directors' Minutes Jan 1880 ‘…the investigations found no evidence to compromise the moral character of the matron but she has to some extent failed to exercise sufficient personal superintendence of the wards and nurses and is deficient in attention and consideration to visitors and ladies connected with the hospital. Her failings were somewhat exaggerated. Her continuation is not likely to further the interests of the hospital and it is desirable she should resign.
 Some resignations are made by male board members who feel she has been ill-used.

Feb 1880: Mrs Snowden is ‘confined to bed by indisposition'. Resignation accepted with a gratuity of six months salary.

There's more 'Hospital History' on Matrons and nurse relationships here.

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