The Colonial Nursing Association was proposed by Mabel Piggott (1854-1949), the wife of the Procurer-General of Mauritius, in 1895. With the help of well-connected friends and the Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain, a leading Imperialist politician of his day, the Association was subsequently founded in 1896. 

The Colonial Nursing Association provided a means of supplying Britain's colonies with trained professional nurses to attend initially to the health of white colonists. The nurses practiced under the rhetoric of Empire and were primarily sent to care for colonial officials and what one commentator called 'heroes of commerce' working in the colonies. Their purview changed by the time of decolonisation to include the training of local nurses. Between 1896 and the Association's end in 1966, over 8,400 nurses were sent to work abroad by the Association.

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