News

Black nursing history: when an African princess joined the register

Princess Ademola from Nigeria juggled royal duties with a nursing career when she came to the UK to train and then worked in London hospitals in the 1940s

Princess Ademola from Nigeria juggled royal duties with a nursing career when she came to the UK to train and then worked in London hospitals in the 1940s

Patients in 1940s London were given the royal treatment when an African princess took up her nurse training at Guy’s Hospital.

Princess Omo-Oba Adenrele Ademola, from Nigeria, had to balance her nursing studies with her royal duties, including visits to Buckingham Palace garden parties.

Her life and work as a nurse in London hospitals inspired a documentary called ‘Nurse Ademola’ by the Colonial Film Unit, which was shown throughout West Africa and motivated many recruits to come to the UK to train.

NHS trust

Princess Ademola from Nigeria juggled royal duties with a nursing career when she came to the UK to train and then worked in London hospitals in the 1940s

Princess Ademola at Guy's Hospital. Picture: Imperial War Museum

Patients in 1940s London were given the royal treatment when an African princess took up her nurse training at Guy’s Hospital.

Princess Omo-Oba Adenrele Ademola, from Nigeria, had to balance her nursing studies with her royal duties, including visits to Buckingham Palace garden parties.

Her life and work as a nurse in London hospitals inspired a documentary called ‘Nurse Ademola’ by the Colonial Film Unit, which was shown throughout West Africa and motivated many recruits to come to the UK to train.

NHS trust praises ‘a historical role model’

‘Nurses from black and minority ethnic backgrounds have contributed richly to our healthcare system for generations,’ said Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust associate director for equality, diversity and inclusion Manal Sadik. ‘It is important that we honour the legacy of nurses from abroad.

‘Princess Ademola is a historical role model for anyone entering the nursing profession and those who have committed their working lives to caring for others.’

Development of a nursing career

She was born on 2 January 1916, the daughter of the Alake of Abeokuta, a significant king in southern Nigeria.

In 1935 she came to the UK and appears in the records as a midwife. She stayed at the West African Students’ Union hostel in Camden and then moved to Somerset in 1936.

From 1939, Princess Ademola is included in the list of nurses on St Saviour’s ward at Guy’s Hospital. She trained there, passed her nursing exams and officially became a registered nurse in 1941.

Princess Ademola enjoys a break with a colleague in the nurses' home attached to Guy's Hospital. Picture: Imperial War Museum

Princess Ademola later gained Central Midwives Board qualifications and cared for patients at other London hospitals during World War II.

Princess Ademola disappears from nursing records

Pictures from the Imperial War Museum show the princess in her two distinct roles – in her furs and jewellery on her way to a garden party, and in her traditional nursing uniform and apron.

Princess Ademola’s career is believed to have spanned more than 30 years, but the last record of her is from 1949 when she was working as a nurse in South Kensington. Her remaining years as a nurse remain a mystery due to poor record-keeping regarding black and minority ethnic staff at the time.

A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Guy’s Hospital, said: ‘Although we do not have a full picture of Princess Ademola’s life, Guy’s and St Thomas’ is proud of her achievements.’


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first three months:

  • Customisable clinical dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals including Nursing Standard
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • NMC-compliant RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs