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Vaginas, myths and menstruation: exhibition traces the history of women’s healthcare

The Wandering Womb explores the evolution of nurses' roles in women's healthcare since the days of patriarchal medicine

The Wandering Womb explores the evolution of nurses' roles in women's healthcare since the days of patriarchal medicine

From advising women to avoid reading novels during the menopause, to the 'disease' of menstruation, nurses' roles through the ages in challenging female health myths are charted in a new RCN exhibition.

The Wandering Womb: Women’s health nursing past and present exhibition explores the evolving role of nurses in women's healthcare.

It also chronicles stories such as how in 1895 Dublin nurse Alice Beatty took her surgeon Charles Cullingworth to court after he removed both her ovaries for 'ovarian disease', rather than only the one to which she had consented.

Emergence of the specialist nurse

The show explains that hysterectomies were the common surgical response to cervical cancer in Victorian times, whereas today women have more control, with a specialist nurse overseeing their care pathway from screening to spotting cancer recurrence.

RCN women’s health forum chair Debra Holloway said: ‘Myths and misconceptions about women’s bodies remain widespread and in a field previously dominated by the perspectives of male doctors and physicians, all nurses now have a responsibility to advocate for women today.’

The college is hosting a series of events inspired by the exhibition including a comedy night in which comedians tackle their periods, and a discussion with cancer nurse specialists on the history and modern-day treatment of female cancers.


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