Maternalist discourse in nursery nurse training at Wellgarth Nursery Training School from 1911-1939: current dilemmas of class and status in historical context

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This article explores current dilemmas of status surrounding professional roles for the early years workforce through research into training for nursery nurses at Wellgarth Nursery Training School, London, from 1911 to 1939. It interrogates the issues through the lens of vocational habitus and feminine and emotional capital and draws comparison with contemporary training for Froebel teachers. The data identify maternalist discourse as a common factor in training for Wellgarth and Froebel students, with consequences for a gendered workforce. The research demonstrates that class was the key factor in the ability to pursue a career in nursery nursing or teaching, and shaped unique professional identities. The historical perspective sets current European and English policy on early years professional roles, and the plethora of recent literature on differentiated constructions of professionalism, which problematises conceptions of professional roles as caring or teaching, within a history dating back over one hundred years.

The archival data which comprised the research material for this paper can be accessed at the London Metropolitan Archive.
© 2017, Taylor and Francis. The attached document (embargoed until 10/10/2018) is an author produced version of a paper published in Gender and Education, uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberDOI: 10.1080/09540253.2017.1302076
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Early online date10 Apr 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Apr 2017


  • Nursery nurses
  • Froebel teachers
  • training
  • professional roles
  • vocational habitus
  • feminine capital

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