A Maker of Matrons’? A study of Eva Lückes’s influence on a generation of nurse leaders
: 1880–1919

  • Sarah Rogers

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines how Eva Lückes, matron of The London Hospital between 1880–1919 influenced a generation of nurse leaders. The nursing historiography suggests that the nascent profession was trying to establish itself as an élite service. This study’s initial aim was to determine whether Lückes was a ‘maker of matrons’ and whether she had selected her protégées solely from the higher-classes. The empirical primary sources for this study, which is in part a prosopography, was gathered from the archives of The London Hospital, the Royal College of Nursing, the British Library, and a range of local archives across the country. This established that 474 women could be identified who became matrons, having trained or worked under Lückes. Their social class was determined using genealogical techniques, which found that Lückes did not select these future matrons by social class alone; the primary sources showed that Lückes selected ‘suitable’ women with education and the right ‘tone’, and used character training to mould her version of the new Nightingale ‘model’ nurse. The research revealed that Lückes selected ‘special’ nurses for managerial training during their probationary period, or their early careers. Lückes was mentored by her friend Florence Nightingale, and in turn, acted as mentor and patron to her nurses. The study reveals Lückes’s not inconsiderable vicarious influence, through her nurse leaders on civilian and military nursing. It uncovered the part she played in the professionalisation of Poor Law infirmaries and voluntary hospitals, and in the development of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. Lückes accessed patronage and beneficial networks – often from the social élite and a ‘web’ of London Hospital supporters, in order to disseminate a reformed nursing diaspora both at home and overseas. The thesis considers Lückes’s role in the professionalisation of nursing against the impact of industrialisation, and developments in hospital, and nursing provision. Where appropriate to this study, ongoing debates about Lückes’s disciplinarian management style, her treatment of nurses during the 1890 Metropolitan Hospitals Enquiry, her determined opposition to centralised nurse registration including a mandatory three-year training programme are considered, and whether these issues impinged on the careers of the nursing leaders. The study is set against the context of increasing education, careers for women and their changing role in society. It is framed largely by general nursing and cultural history, but gender, social and women’s history also inform the thesis.
Date of Award14 Jul 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorChristine Hallett (Main Supervisor) & Janet Hargreaves (Co-Supervisor)

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