Person of the day:
Today’s Person of the Day: Eva Luckes
Occupation: Matron of The London Hospital from 1880 - 1919
Born: 8 July 1854
Died: 16 February 1919
You may know Eva Luckes as the character played by actress Cherie Lunghi in the popular drama series Casualty 1900s that were recently shown by the BBC. Although the series did not centre around Luckes, without her, The London Hospital would not have been the institution that it was…neither would nursing.
Her interest in nursing developed after she left education, and in 1876 she began training to become a nurse, completing it in 1878 after a short rest. She begun her career as a Night Sister at The London Hospital, and after a successful application a little later on, she became the hospital’s Matron. At the age of 26, she was the youngest of five candidates interviewed for the position.
During her first year as Matron (1880), Luckes began implementing extremely important reforms: beforehand, Probationers were considered to be fully qualified nurses after a year of what was essentially work experience on the wards, without examination. They were then expected to take a further 2 years service. Luckes began by ensuring the Probationers were given decent meals and better quality accommodation. Following these reforms, it was then decidd, with the help of Luckes, that nurses should train for 2 years - the first being theoretical, the second being practical. These years were examined. If a Probationer passed these exams, she was expected to serve for a further year.
Under Luckes, proper training was given to nurses, including lectures given by the Matron herself and another member of the medical staff. In 1895, a preliminary 7 week training course was also introduced.
Ten years earlier, in 1885, Luckes introduced the Private Nursing Institution to provide trained nurses for Private Patients.
Luckes was also a regular communicator with Florence Nightingale, both of whom desperately opposed the reform of a statutory register of trained nurses as a way to achieve professional status. Both Florence Nightingale and Eva Luckes were opposed to registration on the grounds that the essential qualities of a good nurse would be subordinated to theory and exams. State registration of nurses was not achieved until the year Luckes died.
Despite many being against her, her achievements were undeniable, however, and she trained nurses who taught others all over the world, including Edith Cavel. Luckes was decorated a number of times during her career, including the RRC, CBE and Lady of Grace Order of St. John medals
Sadly, Luckes’ health deteriorated over the years. She suffered with arthritis, diabetes and cataracts. During the final years of her life, she took to using a bath-chair, and in 1919 she was nursed by Sisters of The London Hospital until her death in February. She was just 65.
What surprises me the most is just how much Luckes contributed to the medical system, not only back in the 1900s, but how she set the standard and made the first developments that eventually turned the system into what it is today. She made The London Hospital a success in providing care for the poor and trained some of the finest nurses. Yet, in spite of all these contributions, she is a woman who is not on the National Curriculum in schools. I didn’t know her name until I watched Casualty 1900s. We learn about Florence Nightingale because she was on the front line, not Luckes who was at home doing just as important a job. Sadly, there are few publications on her - primary sources are available in the museum at the original London Hospital, and she is mentioned in some works by Historians, but she seems to be one of the inspirational, influential women who History forgot.