No dancing for nurses

Thanks to a tweet from Sue Light (twittering as @Scarletfinders):

The 1906 origin of the ban on British military nurses attending dances, so criticised during WW1 by some. This Hansard extract (HC Deb 01 November 1906 vol 163 cc1315-6 1315) explains the reasoning behind it:

§ MR. RENDALL (Gloucestershire, Thornbury)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he will explain why nurses at Netley Hospital, and in the Army’s service generally, are not permitted when off duty, except when on furlough, to take part in public or private dances, seeing that the prohibition does not apply to medical men in the same hospitals; whether a highly trained professional class, such as nurses, are to be placed in a different position on the ground of sex to officers in the Army, who, provided they are on duty at the appointed time have no restrictions placed on their use of time when off duty; and whether he will at once free the nurses from this interference with their liberty.

I have consulted the Nursing Board which contains among its members many ladies of great experience in these matters, and they have advised me to the following effect:—The Nursing Board requires for Her Majesty’s Nursing Service gentlewomen who are devoted first and foremost to their work for its own sake and the sake of their patients, and who will, therefore, desire to live quietly and unostentatiously without looking for much gaiety. Occasional attendance at operas, theatres, concerts, and other places of amusement is not incompatible with the due performance of their duties, and is allowed at discretion of the matron; but the late hours involved by attendance at balls and dances, in the opinion of the Board, incapacitates them from giving proper attention to their patients on the following day.

MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS (Denbigh District)
What does the right 1316 hon. Gentleman mean by “these matters”?

I refer to the arrangements which have been made for the performance of the duties of the nurses. I may say that in this case the weight of authority of these experienced matrons and highly trained ladies has prevailed over my natural instinct.

Sue Light’s website, is a treasure-trove of information about military nurses.


  1. keironspires
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I have a set of medals and the military records of a Staff Nurse who was sent to Court Martial for attending a dance in the Sgt’s Mess having being warned by her Matron not to do so – fascinating reading!

    • Peter
      Posted February 1, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      Hi Could you contact me with some more information about this. I’m doing some research into Social Dancing & this sounds a really interesting story.


      • keironspires
        Posted February 2, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Peter, you can contact me via my website at

  2. Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Court-martialled for dancing! Now there’s a subject for a BBC centenary programme.

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