Stewart, Isla (DNB12)

STEWART, ISLA (1855–1910), hospital matron, born at Slodahill, Dumfriesshire, on 25 Aug. 1855, was second daughter of John Hope Johnstone Stewart by Jessie Murray his wife. Her father, a journalist who had served as an officer of irregular cavalry in the earlier South African campaigns, was a fellow of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries and published 'The Stewarts of Appin' in conjunction with Lieut.-colonel Duncan Stewart (Edinburgh, 1880, 4to). Miss Stewart received her early education at home, and entered St. Thomas's Hospital, London, as a special probationer on 29 Sept. 1879. Here she made rapid progress and was entrusted with the charge of a ward sixteen months later. She left St. Thomas's Hospital in 1885 on her appointment as matron of a smallpox hospital at Darenth, in Kent, and in 1886 she became matron of the Homerton Fever Hospital. She was elected matron and superintendent of nursing at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1887 in succession to Miss Ethel Manson (Mrs. Bedford Fenwick). As matron she founded the League of St. Bartholomew's Hospital Nurses, the first organisation of its kind in England, though it had been foreshadowed by the American Nursing Alumnæ. She remained president of the league until 1908. In 1894 Miss Stewart was one of the founders of the Matrons' Council for Great Britain and Ireland, and she remained its president until her death. From this body came the National and the International Councils of Nurses and the Society for the State Registration of Trained Nurses, in all of which Miss Stewart was keenly interested. She was a member of the Nursing Board of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, and Principal Matron of No. 1 (City of London Hospital) of the territorial nursing service. She was also an honorary member of the Irish Nurses' Association, the German Nurses' Association, and the American Federation of Nurses. During 1907 she gave much good advice and active assistance in furthering the professional training of French nurses on the lines which had been found successful in England. For these services she was on 27 June 1908 publicly presented with a medal specially struck in her honour by the Assistance Publique, the official department which controls the hospitals at Paris. Miss Stewart was one of the hospital matrons who by powers of organisation, foresight, and ability finally raised nursing of the sick by women from a business to a profession. In the large nursing school at St. Bartholomew's Hospital she introduced the methods of the English public schools and ruled by inculcating an esprit de corps which made her nurses proud to serve under her. She died at Chilworth, in Surrey, during a week-end holiday, on 6 March 1910, and was buried at Moffat, N.B. There is a bronze tablet to her memory in the church of St. Bartholomew-the-Less. A memorial to her took the form of an annual 'oration' on subjects connected with nursing; the first oration was delivered on 24 Nov. 1911. Miss Stewart published 'Practical Nursing' in conjunction with Dr. Hubert Cuff (London and Edinburgh, vol. i. 1899; vol. ii. 1903; 11th edit. 1910).

[Brit. Journal of Nursing, vol. xliv. 1910, p. 202; St. Bartholomew's Hospital Journal, 1910, p. 104; The first Isla Stewart Oration, by Miss Rachel Cox-Da vies, 1911; information from Miss Janet Stewart and Miss Hay-Borthwick; personal knowledge.]

D’A. P.