The history of nursing in Sydney is central to understanding a range of issues including healthcare and gendered employment. This article is an introduction to nursing’s complex, fascinating and much neglected history in Sydney, Australia. Its focus is on hospitals as these have been, and remain, a central site for nursing practice and education. It explores the very different experiences of nursing students and matrons, the difficult working conditions which led to the ‘battleaxe’ stereotype, and the battle for even senior nurses to match their responsibilities with adequate power. Two major themes since the introduction of trained nursing has been the chronic nursing shortage and the sustained hostility towards formal education for nurses. Despite all the problems, nurses have practiced in such a way that they are perceived as the most ethical of all professions.
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