Nineteenth-century interest in reforming nursing took on a greater sense of urgency following the Crimean War. The initiative of the Nightingale Fund to establish a school of nursing at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London in 1860 spurred on many provincial hospitals and associations to consider reforming nursing through better recruitment and training of nurses. This paper focuses on an attempt by a group of privileged and assertive women to introduce a modern nursing system in the Lincoln County Hospital in the mid-1860s. The problem of competing authority in the hospital, along with the gender and social class of the protagonists for reform aroused vehement opposition from some of the doctors and governors. The subsequent withdrawal of the reformers to create an independent and successful nursing institution in the city was made possible by the positive effect it had on the care of the poor and in the way it did not challenge the work of the hospital or the private practice of doctors.