Today is International Women’s Day and following an article in the paper about some of Cambridge’s leading ladies in health care, I began to think about some of the leading ladies of the past, and one in particular, Alice Fisher. Alice was a prodigy of Florence Nightingale and an early pioneer in nursing training.
Alice was born in 1839 the daughter of a clergyman. After her father’s death in 1873 she trained as a Lady Probationer at the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. Shortly after completing her training she moved to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and a year later took up her first Matron’s post at Newcastle Fever Hospital. In 1877 she was appointed Matron at Addenbrooke’s with a salary of £70pa plus her board and laundry.
At the time of her appointment nursing at Addenbrooke’s was neither well organised nor well respected, but by the time she left in 1882 she ‘had completely reorganised the nursing department and in doing so, had succeeded in establishing a very efficient training school for nurses…second to none’.
On leaving Addenbrooke’s she became Matron of the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, she then moved to Birmingham General Hospital for 2 years and in 1884 to the United States as Matron of Philadelphia General Hospital and there she again transformed conditions and established the nurses training school. She died of heart disease in 1888.
Her legacy lives on here at Addenbrooke’s with a lecture named after her and in the Philadelphia area, nurses hold an annual procession to the Woodland Cemetery where she is buried.