Information on the ages of new entrants and from where they came is scant until 1900. From then until around 1919 the mean age of new student nurses was 23 – 26 yrs. None were younger than 20yrs and a number were aged in the mid-thirties. Thereafter there was a trend for younger women to enter nurse training – in the 1920s and 1930s ages ranged from 18 – 38yrs, mean around 21yrs. In the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, women as young as 17yrs of age were accepted and from 1960 – 1963 more than 50% of new entrants were aged 17yrs. Details of entry ages beyond 1963 are unavailable to me.
I was surprised to discover that students who were normally resident in Wellington and who entered training between 1900 – 1919 were in the minority. Whilst a majority of ‘out-of-towners’ came from provinces near Wellington, there were a number from as far afield as Auckland and Otago/Southland. I suspect that these data reflect the high reputation of the Wellington School of Nursing in those early years. From around 1920 on, new entrants from Wellington were in the majority.
Numbers of women entering training each year were low at first: 14 – 36 for the years 1900 – 1914; climbing to 36 – 49 during 1915 – 1920; 60 – 94 during the 1920s; 49 – 154 in the 1930s and as high as 245 in the 1940s. Thereafter numbers stabilized between 95 – 209. New entrant numbers were in significant part dictated by the needs of the hospital for student nurses working in wards. The hospital expanded relentlessly during the 20th century requiring nurses (including student nurses) to staff the increased bed numbers.