Blue plaque unveiled in tribute to the first woman of African descent to hold the post of Head Matron of an NHS hospital

The first woman of African descent to hold the post of Head Matron of an NHS hospital has been honoured.

A blue plaque tribute was unveiled for Daphne Steele at the site of former St James Hospital in Balham, where she trained.

More than 100 people attended the ceremony on October 16.

Born in 1929, in the Essequibo region of Guyana, Daphne was the eldest of nine children.

From an early age she wanted to pursue a career in the medical profession, inspired by her father who worked as a pharmacist.

In 1945, aged 16, Daphne started training as a nurse and midwife at the then public hospital in Georgetown, before emigrating to the UK in 1951 to start a training programme at St James’ Hospital in Balham.

Her career took her to the US in 1955 where she worked as a nurse for five years, before returning to work in the NHS, first in Oxfordshire and then Manchester, where she became a Deputy Matron of a nursing home.

She then became head matron at St Winifred’s Hospital in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. She died in 2004.

Carmen Munroe , Daphne’s younger sister, (pictured above), said: “Daphne, a woman of courage with a heart of gold.

Her family and friends recognised her humanity and divinity.

She attracted and radiated a positive outlook, which is why she made such extraordinary strides in spite of the social constraints of the time.”


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