Princess Campbell: One of Bristol’s first Black ward sisters

Princess Campbell came from Jamaica to Bristol in 1962. Her aspiration was to become a nurse.

After working at Wills’s Tobacco factory, she was accepted as a student nurse at Manor Park Hospital.

Her time there, however, was difficult:

“The English nurses would have the easiest jobs; we, the black nurses, would be in the sluice cleaning bedpans and vomit boards. You couldn’t complain because the ward sister made a report. You had to put up or shut up.”

Princess enquired why there were no black ward sisters at the hospital and was told “The white nurses won’t work under a black sister.” Princess became determined to change this and two years after qualifying as a nurse, she applied for a sister’s post. The job was given to a white nurse who was not even registered with the General Nursing Council.

Princess was popular among her colleagues who complained about the appointment, and two years later, through determination and her nursing excellence, she became a ward sister at Glenside Hospital.

“I think I had the best ward. I knew as a black sister that I would be scrutinised. I dotted all the ‘i’s and crossed all the ‘t’s.”

princess campbell sitting in front of a framed portrait of herself

Princess was one of a pioneering group of African-Caribbean workers who began to challenge barriers of prejudice. In her retirement she visited schools to talk with and inspire young people. She would tell them:

“Use determination and your self-esteem; when you come across challenges and adversity, don’t run away if you want to change things.”

Princess Campbell passed away in September 2015.

Related objects

May Tanner is now believed to have been Bristol’s first black hospital ward sister. By 1959 she was a qualified Registered Mental Health Nurse. She worked at Bristol Mental Hospital, Bristol Maternity Hospital and Bristol Royal Infirmary.

What other Black history stories should be told?

This story was published as part of a series on Bristol’s Black history. Tell us what topics or subjects you’d like covered and what questions you’d like answered.