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Health Visitors' Association

  • Health Visitor's Association
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The archive dates from the turn of the century until 1984, when Jane Wyndham-Kaye retired as General Secretary. It consists of minute books of the Executive Committee and various sub-committees, publications, ephemera and photographs, produced or collected by the Association. It does not, however, include any material from the Association's regional Centres and specialist Groups.



Physical description

100 boxes; 8 outsize items


A very simple arrangement has been adopted for the collection. Runs of annual reports, minute books, publications and photographs have been sorted into separate sequences, the remaining odd administrative files, volumes and papers being placed in a single chronological sequence. Books collected by the Association on subjects of professional interest have been transferred to the Historical and Modern Medicine sections of the Wellcome Institute Library and may be consulted there. Also with the collection are a few records generated by other organisations (see Section F.) and the papers of several individual health visitors, who worked both in the UK and abroad (see Section G.) and these have been listed separately.

Acquisition note

These records were deposited on permanent loan with the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine by the Health Visitors' Association, in July 1993. An additional deposit consisting of the Association's Journal was made in July 1994.

In December 2013 several issues of the journal Community Practitioner were donated by a member of the CPHVA; these issues fill in gaps in the existing series of the association's journal and extend the series up to 2005.

Biographical note

This note is divided into two sections, covering first the history of the HVA and secondly the historical context within which the organisation developed


The organisation now known as the HVA was founded in 1896 as Women Sanitary Inspectors' Association; renamed in 1915 as the Women Sanitary Inspectors' and Health Visitors' Association and in 1930 became the Women Public Health Officers' Association. The name Health Visitors' Association was adopted in 1962.

The Women Sanitary Inspectors' Association was founded in 1896 by seven women sanitary workers, all based in London. By 1906 the membership had risen to sixty-three and that year invitations to join the Association were sent out to those working in the provinces. The main aims of the Association have remained constant throughout its history - to safeguard the interests and improve the status of women public health workers and to promote the interchange of relevant technical and professional knowledge. In 1915 the name of the Association was changed to The Women Sanitary Inspectors' and Health Visitors' Association to reflect the increased number of Health Visitors who had joined, and in 1929 it became The Women Public Health Officers' Association due to the inclusion in the membership of others working in the public health field. In 1962 it adopted the new name of The Health Visitors' Association as this was seen as more indicative of the work and function of most members, although other types of workers were not excluded.

Throughout its history the Association has been interested in the work of the many different types of health worker who have been eligible for membership at one time or another such as school nurses, tuberculosis visitors, sanitary inspectors, clinic nurses, family planning nurses, domiciliary midwives and matrons of day nurseries as well as health visitors themselves, and has shared connections with parallel professions such as nursing, social work, district nursing and midwifery. In 1918 the Association affiliated to the National Union of Women Workers and in 1924 was the first health service union to affiliate to the TUC and has actively negotiated and campaigned on a variety of issues such as pay and conditions, state welfare benefits, training, etc.

The early emphasis of health visiting was on mother and child care, as part of the tide of concern over infant mortality during the late 19th and early 20th century, but later, particularly after the National Health Service Acts of 1946-7, their work extended into involvement with the health of the whole family and other groups such as those needing after-care following admission to hospital, those with long term illness, the recently bereaved, and families with social problems, although the emphasis throughout has remained on public health education. Because of this, and the varied settings in which its members have worked at different times over the years, such as the home and school, workshop and factory, as well as the health centre, clinic and hospital, the records of the Association, and of the individual health visitors which lie alongside them, document many social, rather than purely medical, aspects of health and disease in a wide range of areas ranging from the working conditions of outworkers and the recovery of the tuberculous at the beginning of the century, to, more recently, concern over cigarette advertising and the public health implications of the chemical and nuclear industries.


1848 Public Health Act required appointment of Inspectors of Nuisances by all Local Boards of Health

1855 Nuisances Removal and Disease Prevention Act required appointment of Sanitary Inspectors by every Local Authority

1862 Appointment of six sanitary visitors, later known as health visitors, in Manchester by the Ladies' Section of the Manchester and Salford Reform Association

1890 Manchester Corporation employs health visitors

1891 Factory and Workshops Act led to the appointment of women inspectors of workshops

1892 Buckinghamshire County Council appointed three "Lady Missioners" to give home instruction in child welfare, the step being taken on the initiative of Florence Nightingale who also recommended that the Technical Education Committee of the Council should arrange a course of instruction followed by examination

1893 Appointment of Women Sanitary Inspectors in London boroughs

1896 Women Sanitary Inspectors' Association founded on an informal basis

1902 First Association minute book begun

1904 Association formally constituted, rules being adopted and approved in April

Inter-departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration

1905 Establishment of the Association's Executive Committee

1906 Membership of the Association extended outside London

Huddersfield Corporation Act required notification of births within the city

National Conference on Infantile Mortality

1907 Notification of Births Act [became compulsory 1915]

1908 Regional organisation for the Association adopted, the districts in which members worked being divided into groups with representation on the Committee

1908 Royal Sanitary Institute begins to set examinations in Health Visiting

London County Council (General Powers) Act empowered sanitary authorities to employ women health visitors, now recognised as a class of Local Government Officers

1909 Health Visitors' (London) Order required that health visitors should possess either a medical degree or the Central Midwives Board Certificate, or general nursing training and a Health Visitors certificate

1910 First Association conference held in London

1912 System of regional Centres adopted by the association, the first provincial Centre of the Association being founded in Birmingham

1914 Association celebrated the tenth year of its organised existence by inaugurating the regular Annual Dinner

1915 Association's name changed to The Women Sanitary Inspectors' and Health Visitors' Association

Notification of Births (Extension) Act

1917 Full membership enlarged to include all Health Visitors [previously limited to those who were also qualified Sanitary Inspectors], Superintendents of Maternity and Child Welfare Centres and Tuberculosis Visitors

1918 Maternity and Child Welfare Act made every local authority responsible for setting up maternity and child welfare committees

1918 Association registered as a Trade Union, affiliated to NALGO and to the NUWW

1919 Board of Education (Health Visitors Training) Regulations

1921 Membership enlarged to include School Nurses and others engaged in various branches of public health work

1921-2 First Association Winter School

1922 Association initiated a course of training and an examination for the Board of Education Diploma for Health Visitors

1923 First Association full-time General Secretary appointed

1924 Association affiliated to the TUC

1925 Ministry of Health became responsible for the training of Health Visitors

1926 First meeting of the Executive Committee outside London took place in Birmingham

Association news sheet enlarged and appeared for the first time under the title of Woman Health Officer

1927 Correspondence course initiated

1928 Ministry of Health regulation that health visitors should hold the certificate of the Royal Sanitary Institute

1929 Visit of German public health and social workers to London organised by the Association began the regular series of international exchanges and educational tours

1929 Local Government Act set out rules for the provision of a qualification and standard training

1930 Name changed to the Women Public Health Officers' Association

1931 First of the regular series of Annual Conferences

1939 Terms of reference of the Finance and Staff Sub-committee enlarged to enable it to transact the business of the Association between meetings of the Executive Committee

1942 First Association Summer School

1944 Education Act extended work of health visitors to school nursing

1945 Standing Conference of Health Visitor Training Centres grew from the Joint Consultative Council of Health Visitor Training Centres

1946-8 National Health Service Acts: it becomes a statutory duty of Local Health Authorities to appoint Health Visitors for the purpose of home visiting and the scope of duties of health visitors extended to include the whole family

1953-1956 Shortage of qualified health visitors and establishment of a working party which led to the Jamieson Report and debate as to whether training in clinical nursing was the best foundation for the profession

1959 School Health Service Regulations

1962 Health Visiting and Social Work (Training) Act set up joint councils under a single chairman for health visitor and social work training, that for health visiting being the CTHV

1962 Change of name to the Health Visitors' Association

1966 Formation of an Editorial Board for the Journal Health Visitor

1970 Joint training councils separated and CETHV established

1972 National Health Service Regulations (Qualifications of Health Visitors)

1992 Association becomes amalgamated with the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union

Related material

Archived website

This organisation's website has been archived as part of the work of the UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC) and can be consulted here:

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Finding aids

Hardcopy list

Location of duplicates

The following copy photographs are held by Wellcome Images: SA/HVA/E/3/5, Visiting the diabetic patient at home, c.1966, L0025660 SA/HVA/E/3/11, Children facing wall, c.1900, L0025668 SA/HVA/E/3/11, Mother and baby queueing up, c.1950, L0025671

Accruals note

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

19 boxes and 1 packet received in 1996 (acc. 634), consisting of: General Secretary/Director's office files, including records of Institute of Infant Welfare Fund, 1960-85; correspondence; papers of the General Purposes Committee, 1987-94; papers of Working Parties, 1985 onwards; and publications

19 transfer boxes, 1 o/s folder, 1 roll received in 1999 (acc. 792), consisting of: committee minutes; correspondence; teaching packs; photographs; papers re marketing and other administrative files, including re the Association's change of name, 1970s-1990s

1 file received in 2000 (acc. 843), consisting of: leaflets, circulars, and papers relating to the election of officers, 1980s

c.0.5 box received in 2002 (acc. 1075), consisting of: 1 London County Council Health Visitor's notebook (blank); HVA Special 'Ready as Ever: An Historical Look at the HVA 1990'; 90th Anniversary issue of 'Health Visitor'

6 boxes received in 2003 (acc. 1182), consisting of: Executive Committee and Annual General Meeting papers, c.1980-2001

0.5 box received in 2008 (acc. 1599), consisting of: varied material, some donated by former health visitors, including file of leaflet submissions 1998; lecture notebook of H Zenber Health Visiting Course at Chiswick Polytechnic, 1955-1956; various publicity and information materials 1990s; draft paper on the child in the hospital environment 2002; study on health visiting in China 1986-1987

2 boxes received in Dec 2013 (acc.2036) consisting of the journal Community Practitioner, Dec 1988, Jul and Sep 1989, Oct 1991, Nov 1992, Jun and Sep 1993, Aug-Dec 1995, 1995-2005. These fill in gaps in the existing archive series. They have been catalogued and added to Section H.

1 box received in Feb 2014 (acc.2051) consisting of the journal Community Practitioner, Feb 2004, Apr-Jun, Aug, Oct-Dec 2005, Jan-Dec 2006, Jan-Apr 2007. These fill in gaps in the existing archive series. They have been catalogued and added to Section H.

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