Christmas in the Archives at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives
As a way to demonstrate the variety of material we have in the Archive and to have a bit of fun in the festive season we searched the collections to see what we have relating to Christmas.
It was interesting to see what we found.
The Royal College of Midwives Archives, particularly within the Special Collections, are much more personal in nature than the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Historically many midwives also worked as nurses, perhaps before training to become a midwife or later in their career. When we get personal material relating to a midwife donated to the archive we often receive related material along with it.
For example, two such images we have were taken on a paediatric ward, possibly at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and belonged to Elizabeth Braine. She worked as a children’s nurse in around 1915-1920, which is when these photographs would have been taken, before training as a midwife in 1923.
Another two photographs we found are of hospital staff on a paediatric ward, possibly in Salisbury in 1941.
A beautiful photograph, the people in it completely unidentified but dated on the back as 1960s, shows two midwives holding three babies between them and standing in front of a Christmas tree.
There are also a large number of Christmas cards in the RCM Archives, in different forms. A collection of personal Christmas cards, for example, belonged to Kathleen Savidge, who worked as a midwife in the 1960s and 1970s. Far more than is commonplace in the current day, midwives often knew mothers throughout their pregnancy and birth, delivering babies to women they knew. It is not surprising then, that these women sent Christmas cards to the midwife who delivered their baby, often featuring photographs of said child.
More formal items in the Collection include copies of the RCM Christmas card which would have been sent out to formal acquaintances in the 1960s featuring the RCM crest. We also have Christmas cards sent to the College each year by the patron, Princess Anne.
The RCOG Collection may not hold quite so many personal items, but an eclectic mix of Christmas related materials none the less.
There are invitations to Christmas parties, lists, photographs, annual reports and cards.
A particularly interesting card is to William Fletcher Shaw in c.1950 from Clementine Churchill, wife of Winston Churchill, featuring a photograph of Sir Winston Churchill himself dressed in gumboots in the snow.
There are the formal College Christmas cards sent out by William Blair Bell and William Fletcher Shaw in the 1930s. A Christmas card from the Honorary Treasurer, Earley Holland, features the Annual Report for 1934 with a note on the back which reads ‘I hope you will keep this for recording amounts year by year from the Annual Reports’.
Lists were also kept. A list of the Christmas gifts received by William Fletcher Shaw in 1954 and 1955 show the large number of items such as book tokens, chocolate, wine, sherry, money and even a chicken that were received. Another list shows the Christmas cards sent by Dame Hilda Lloyd in 1951. It also includes the last air mail posting dates for Christmas.
A large photograph appears to have been sent by Ewen Maclean to his friend Blair Bell with a note that reads ‘With affectionate regards to dear old BB. Xmas 1927’.
A letter from the Queen’s Lady-in-waiting, sent from Sandringham in 1951, thanks Dame Hilda Lloyd for sending the Queen a Christmas card.
Whilst many things have changed over the years, these items from the last 100 years show that much has also remained the same. The beautifully decorated Christmas trees, thoughtful Christmas cards and general Christmas wishes still have so much similarity to Christmas in the modern day.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas
From the Heritage team at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives.