Eva Charlotte Ellis Luckes was born on 8 July 1854 into an upper middle class family. Her father, Henry Richard Luckes, was a banker who had established a comfortable home for his family in Newnham, Gloucestershire. Miss Luckes, the eldest of three daughters, was educated at Malvern, Cheltenham College and Dresden. She suffered from some physical disablement and had a horse to help her travel about the countryside. After finishing her education she returned to Newnham and helped her mother run the house and visited the sick of the parish. It was this that developed her interest in nursing.
Miss Luckes began her training in September 1876 when she entered the Middlesex Hospital as a paying probationer. Unfortunately, she left after three months, finding the work too strenuous. This did not prevent her from trying again and after a rest, she started at the Westminster Hospital, completing her training in August 1878. She was appointed night sister at the London Hospital, where she stayed for three months before becoming lady superintendent at the Manchester General Hospital for Sick Children in Pendlebury. She resigned from this post after apparently clashing with the medical committee for attempting to instigate reforms in the standard of nurse training. After serving for a short period at the Hospital for Sick Children Great Ormond Street, Miss Luckes successfully applied for the position of matron at the London, where she had begun her professional career. At 24, Miss Luckes was the youngest of the five candidates interviewed and several of the Committee thought her 'too young and too pretty' and were wary of appointing someone with relatively little experience. However, the confidence of the committee members was well founded as she set about introducing a programme of reforms to improve the standard of nursing at the London.
Miss Luckes' reforms were built around a well established plan of what she wanted to achieve. She ensured that nurses were better provided for by seeing that meals were provided and that better accommodation was available. She reduced probationers' training to two years, after which a certificate of merit was awarded and the nurse was required to stay at the London for a further year. Proper training was given, supplemented by lectures given by Miss Luckes herself and a member of the medical staff. Proper examinations were introduced at the end of the training period. The selection procedure for new nurses became more rigorous. After an application form had been filled in, there was a personal interview with Matron, a medical examination and a month's trial before being accepted as a probationer. Miss Luckes also introduced the preliminary training school as a way for new probationers to get a feel for the work before entering the wards. It was also a way for Matron to assess whether the prospective nurse was suitable or not. Miss Luckes introduced the Private Nursing Institution, which involved nurses trained at the London tending sick people in their own homes. She also improved the pay of her nurses and encouraged them to join the National Pension Scheme for Nurses that had been established.
Despite being busy with her reforms at the London, Miss Luckes was fighting proposed reforms to the nursing profession as a whole. The letters in section one (PP/LUC/1) of this list were written at a turbulent time for Miss Luckes and her contemporary, Florence Nightingale. The British Nurses Association (BNA), founded in 1887, was campaigning vigorously for 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. The BNA applied in 1891 to the Board of Trade to become a public company, but failed after a campaign organised by the anti-registrationists. In 1892, the BNA successfully applied for a Royal Charter of Incorporation, although the Privy Council watered down the charter by not including the power to maintain a register. State registration of nurses was not achieved until 1919. As well as campaigning against registration, Eva Luckes found herself under attack from those who criticised her method of management. In 1890-91 she was called before a House of Lords Select Committee set up to investigate the efficiency of metropolitan hospitals. Many charges from other witnesses were made against her department. The Select Committee made its report in 1892 and found not only the charges to be unsubstantiated but that the majority of the allegations were exaggerated.
Miss Luckes first published her Lectures on General Nursing in 1884. The volume consisted of, essentially, the lectures that she gave to the probationer nurses during their training. The book ran into 9 editions, the final edition being published in 1914. She also produced a volume called Hospital Sisters and their Duties, which ran to 4 editions. Both books were a great success and the documents in the second section of this list (PP/LUC/2), chart the production of the books and the various royalties she received. Miss Luckes received many letters from people that had read her book and these can be found in PP/LUC/3.
As time progressed, Miss Luckes' health deteriorated. She suffered from arthritis, diabetes and cataracts. During the final years of her life her mobility was impaired and she took to using a bath-chair. By 1919, she became acutely ill and was nursed by Sisters from the hospital. She died on 16 February 1919, having been Matron at the London for 39 years. She was cremated and her ashes laid to rest behind a plaque on the north side of St Philip's Church, now the Medical School Library.
The collection takes the following arrangement;
PP/LUC/1 - letters from Florence Nightingale and transcripts of Miss Luckes' replies
PP/LUC/2 - papers relating to her publications divided into Kegan Paul & Co (items 1 - 13), J & A Churchill (items 14-29), Scientific Press Ltd (items 30-40), Incorporated Society of Authors (item 41) and press cuttings (items 42-43).
PP/LUC/3 - letters to Miss Luckes, principally about her publications
PP/LUC/4 - miscellaneous items such as her commonplace books and address book.