Florence Nightingale’s letters to Crich surgeon C B N Dunn are a fascinating read, for their social history content as well as for the insights they can provide into the life of their author. You can find out more about them in some of our previous blog posts. In this example (D2546/ZZ/54), Nightingale tells Dunn of candidates for membership of the local Women’s Club – not a recreational club, but a benefit society, which provided a form of insurance against sickness and death. It was hoped that Dunn could “pass” people as being in good health on joining the club. Collection D1575 (deriving from the Nightingale family’s estates) includes the rules of Lea Friendly Society dated 1832 – this society may well have been the forerunner of the Women’s Club mentioned in the letter.
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Here is the text in full:
10 Jan 1880
10 South St
Park Lane W
My dear Sir
I am very much obliged to you for your report of our patients.
I am thankful to hear that Mrs Limb is so well attended to under the new regime and so much less suffering. I know you will be so kind as to enquire after Rose Limb (morally not physically) when you visit the mother. This child, for I think she is only 12, declared that if she did not like her new sister-in-law, she should leave the house and set up for herself elsewhere. (This is the harm the Mill does – girls of 13 think they owe no allegiances, if they can earn their own bread.)
If this fit of rebellion has, as I earnestly trust, passed away, I would not revive the possibility of her doing such a thing.
Rose Limb is frightfully spoiled. Tho[ugh] she is put to school at no expence to them, she is allowed to go or not as she pleases.
I know you will kindly ask what she is doing.
(The girls at Holloway are a heady anxiety: so much dress; so little putting by money; or even mending their own clothes.
Many a girl who begs of me spends more money on herself relatively and in a few instances absolutely, than I do.)
I hope Harriet Limb has entered the Women’s Club and is paying besides a monthly sum into Mr Yeoman’s hands for the P. O. Savings Bank (which I doubt).
Widow Broomhead. I am grateful for your care of her. It is, I suppose, wonderful how she lasts on amid such suffering. Pray order her anything you think right.
The day before I came away she asked me for some flannel. It was impossible for me to send for it then; but I took the opportunity of telling her that she might order it for herself and send the bill to me. Yeomans, on condition that her daughter entered the Women’s Club and that her son (who earns 22/ a week) would put money into Mr Yeomans’ hands, which I would doubt.
I have heard since that she did not get the flannel, because it was not to be had at the Co-op Stores. Surely this is very helpless. Could not a neighbour get it for her at Cromford or Matlock?
Pardon my troubling you with these details.
Hannah Allen. I am very sorry that my old friend the Prophetess is so ill again. She has 2 lbs of meat a week from me; besides milk and cocatine, some money and other things. And I obtained for her from the Mill a pension of 3/ a week.
But if you think other things requisites, please let me know. And please tell me if the damp in the houses is really remedied. I am very glad Ann is so much better, thanks to you.
Lizzie Holmes, I suppose, will never be strong again. I am thankful she is better. Her mother is one of the very best women I know of any where. Most glad am I to hear of the improvement in Buxton nursing. Could you tell me who is the present matron? And where from?
I trust that the water supply will be obtained. Is the pig extinct near Mrs Limb’s well?
Would you kindly remember me to Mrs Swann and tell her I have not succeeded (I hardly expected it) in finding Patty Cottrell a suitable place. I hope she has, for Mr Wildgoose has promised in that prospect not to take her on at the Mill.
I am giving you much trouble.
I have been so ill and overworked since I returned to London that I must ask you kindly to take this too true apology for my not visiting.
I hope Mrs Bratby is better for the removal of abominable cess pit overflow. Is she thinking of Ramsgate?
Pray believe me my dear Sir with kind regards to Mrs Dunn, if I may be allowed to send them.
Ever yours faithfully
Like a woman, I have two or three PSS:
Poor old Widow Gregory: I suppose she is not gone to the Union?
Adam Prince: is he keeping sober?
Alfred Peach I am afraid to ask after.
I cannot say my Fanny is much better. She has taken your “Nux Vomica” pills and your Bismuth (granular) and Iron when I reminded her, and her digestion, if she is very careful of what she eats, is better. But she is weak, especially in the back; and complains of pain in the back when she stands. FN