Andrea Sutcliffe joins nursing leaders at Ethel Gordon Fenwick memorial

Published on 24 May 2022

NMC Chief Executive and Registrar joins nursing leaders at memorial for Ethel Gordon Fenwick, number one nurse on the register.

Ethel Gordon Fenwick was an ardent advocate for high professional nursing standards and a tireless campaigner for the regulation of nurses. She finally saw her wish come true with the passage of the Nursing Registration Act in December 1919 and became the first nurse on the register when it opened in September 1921.

On Friday 20 May 2022, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar joined nursing leaders and local dignitaries at the medieval church of St. Helena’s in Thoroton, Nottinghamshire for a celebration of the nursing profession and Ethel’s unique contribution.

Thoroton is where Ethel grew up and is buried, in a grave recently restored with the assistance of the International Council of Nurses, which she helped to found in 1899.  The memorial service was originally planned for March 2020 in the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife but was delayed due to the pandemic.

Judith Ellis, OBE, a former Chair of the NMC and member of the EGF Commemorative Partnership Group paid a heartfelt tribute to Ethel:

“To me she was a thought leader, a visionary, a true nursing hero, and an example of a powerful female leader who persevered against the odds, to bring about change which has led to safer patient care not just in the UK but across the world.”

Caroline Kirk, Advanced Clinical Practitioner at Nottingham University Hospitals gave her reflections on nursing in 2022 building on Ethel’s legacy and local school children spoke about Ethel’s contribution to the development of the nursing profession.  Howard Catton, Chief Executive Officer of the International Council of Nurses also paid tribute recognising her global influence.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar said:

“I was so pleased to represent the NMC at the memorial service for Ethel Gordon Fenwick.  We are all very proud of Ethel’s role in establishing nursing regulation in this country.  She was a true pioneer and an inspirational nurse.  I wish more people knew of her life and work and the difference she made.”


Ethel Fenwick's story - The Nursing and Midwifery Council (

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