Celebrating our nurses on International Women’s Day

In honour of International Women’s Day  , we look back at the 1930s female-led Marie Curie Hospital and the legacy of care and support from our nursing staff of all genders.

Every year on 8 March, people across the world celebrate the achievements of women and pledge to take action for gender equality. On this day, we are particularly proud that our charity is named for the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and that her discoveries have saved millions of lives.

Our nurses and hospices provide care and support to people living with terminal illness, regardless of gender. But our origins lie in a hospital run for women, by women.

HM Queen Mary meet female medical staff of the Marie Curie Hospital in 1937
HM Queen Mary and Eve Curie meet female staff of the Marie Curie Hospital in 1937. Credit: Wellcome Library, London (cc)

A hospital opens in Hampstead

In 1930, following a public funding appeal, a London building was converted into a 30-bed hospital to be staffed entirely by women. As the focus was on the radiological treatment of women suffering from cancer, Madame Curie took an interest and allowed her name to be used.

The Marie Curie Hospital had facilities for radium and X-ray therapy, as well as research laboratories, and treated hundreds of women each year. An out-patients department was opened in the cellar to enable follow-up care and the building was extended to cope with increasing demand.

Unfortunately, most of the hospital was destroyed by bombing in 1944.

Rising from the rubble

Following the war, plans were made to rebuild the hospital and keep the name of Marie Curie alive in the medical field. Her daughter Eve gave permission for the Marie Curie International Memorial Foundation, which was established in 1948.

Thanks to a fundraising appeal, the first Marie Curie Home for cancer patients was opened in 1952, based in an old National Trust property in Fife. From its earliest days, the foundation helped patients who needed care at home and by the end of the 1950s, Marie Curie home nursing was available in nine UK areas.

A legacy of nursing care

Today, Marie Curie provides care and support for over 40,000 women and men each year who are living with any terminal illness. This wouldn’t be possible without the pioneering medical women of the Marie Curie Hospital, the support of a trailblazing female scientist, and generations of Marie Curie Nurses and supporters of all genders.

Want to achieve something special for International Women’s Day? Help us continue to support people living with terminal illness, and their families, by donating whatever you can spare.