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In Tribute of Canada’s Nursing Officers: World War I to the Present

Mary Lynn Hetherington RN

Portrait photo Ronald Greene

National Nursing Week is May 11 - 17, 2009. The Salt Spring Island Historical Society is presenting a special program at its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, May 13, in honour of all nurses, with a special focus on Canada's Nursing Officers, including those from Salt Spring Island. The Canadian Nurses Association states that Canada had 3000 nurses serving in World War I and 4, 000 nurses serving in WWII. Canadian nurses were the only nurses in the allied armies with the rank of officers. These nursing sisters served in all three armed force branches, and all major theatres of war, in various medical and surgical settings, in field dressing stations, on hospital ships, and as flight nurses caring for evacuated soldiers during World War I and II and the Korean War

The first permanent nursing service was included in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) in 1904, and became an essential part of CAMC in World War I. The nurses‘ hard work during that war earned them recognition and respect as evidenced by the Nursing Sisters' Memorial, which was unveiled in 1926 in the Hall of Honour in the centre block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Mary Lynn Hetherington, the presenter of this program, is a Registered Nurse who has great admiration for the Nursing Officers, both present and past. She is Past Legislative Representative of Region Two of the Ontario Nurses Association, representing nurses at Queens Park, Toronto and Parliament Hill, Ottawa for 7 years. During this period she had the pleasure of seeing the first Nursing Practice Officer, Dr. Josephine Flaherty hired for Canada and Dr. Dorothy Hall (previously with the World Health Organization) hired as the Nursing Practice Officer for the Province of Ontario. Mary Lynn points out that this was in direct result of lobbying on the parts of all three Nursing Bodies in Canada. She is Past President of the Registered Nurses Association-Huron Chapter, Past President of Ontario Nurses Association Local 112, Past President of the Friends of the Lucan Library, current member of the Canadian Nurses Association and the Emergency Nurses Association, both Canadian and American, BCNU, and the Registered Nurses of British Columbia. She has special interest in Nursing History, and the International Nursing Counsel.

Accession Number Interviewer Mary Lynn Hetherington RN
Date May 13, 2009 Location Central Hall 
Media digital recording Audio CD




Speaker 1 0:00
The program this afternoon is in honor of of Nurses Week, but it also is an honor of some very special people who live on Saltspring and it worked to out Canada and Mary Lynn Hetherington, the presenter of this program is a registered nurse who has great admiration for the nursing officers both present and past. She is past legislative representative region two of the Ontario Nurses Association, and representing nurses at Queen's Park, Toronto and Parliament Hill, Ottawa for seven years. During this period, she had the pleasure of seeing the first nursing practice officer, Dr. Josephine clarity hired for Canada and Dorothy Hall Dr. Dorothy Hall previously with the World Health Organization, hired as a nursing practicing officer for the province of Ontario. Mary Lynn points out that this was a direct result of lobbying on the parts of all three nursing bodies in Canada. She is past president Registered Nursing Association, past president of the Ontario Nurses Association, local 112. past presidents Friends of the blue can library, current member of the Canadian Nurses Association, and the Emergency Nurses Association, both Canadian and American BCNU and the Registered Nurses of British Columbia. She has special interest in nursing history and the International nursing Council. She will now make her presentation and I welcome her to our afternoon program. Thanks very much.

Speaker 2 1:35
Okay, welcome to all of you. This is a special tribute to the nursing sisters and all nurses during the National Nursing week in Canada. When I first came to Salt Spring in 2001, I had, I couldn't understand why nursing week was not celebrated on this island, because they are so special to this country. And so we're gonna go from there. And I'm just going to do a brief history of a movie. We're going to honor the nurses that are here and then during refreshments, Frank is going to show pictures that have been scanned of the nursing officers and what they have done. And then there's a whole slew of pictures over the interesting pictures there from from Trafalgar Square on V Day and Normandy and all sorts of stuff. So, okay, here we go. The military, nursing service and Canada are indebted above all to the nursing volunteer efforts of nurses in many different ways that made a difference during the wartime. Florence Nightingale has long been considered the pioneer of both domestic and particular military nursing. Her efforts in the Crimean War in 1954 to 1956 convinced the military authorities that it was essential to organize a complete medical corps rather than one medical officer per regiment. In 1898, the federal government in Canada sent 200 volunteer soldiers to the Yukon to help the RCMP during the the Gold Rush and send a contingency of four Victorian order of nurses with them to take care of the regiments. The Boer War in 1899 did not include any nursing service, and the Canadian nursing corps began to be built in 1901 in 1908, or Gina Pope became the matron and chief of the Canadian Army Nursing Corps. The uniform change at this time from khaki to navy blue, and the military insignia was attached in 19 4014. On a 30 reservists made up the nursing corps. Less than three weeks after Canada declared war 202,003 nurses had enlisted under the guidance of Margaret MacDonald, matron and chief of the Canadian Armed nursing corps. These nurses cared for 540,000 Soldiers working near the front 53 lost their lives while on active duty are nerdy you're probably familiar. I'm not gonna go into all the history of this but our first matron of Lady Mental Hospital was a World War. One nursing officer and Cohoon this group of caregiver givers helped provide the young profession with a stamp of legitimacy. Missy for nurses on active duty and World War One, only Canadian Nurses were just directly under the armed drunk we under the army they were the only officers and correct me if I'm wrong, but it wasn't that so in second world war two they didn't. The Canadian Nurses were the only officers and the other countries were not officers. I think they were outside the actual rank. I think they were just nursing sisters but they didn't have that officer title. Okay, Canada again entered into the world conflict September 1939. Again nursing sisters answered the call of duty. At the end of World War Two 4480 Nursing sistered sisters had enlisted 3656 with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps 431 with Royal Canadian Air Force, and 343 with the Royal Canadian Naval Medical Corps. Just as a side point in 1926, the Canadian government recognized in Ottawa the continued contribution of the nursing officers in World War One and unveiled a memorial monument to them on August 24 1926. Okay, the only Canadian nurse to die during enemy action in the Second World War was an AVI sister Agnes Wilks after the sinking of the SS caribou on October 13 1942 1942 of listeners, okay, everybody else came home. So Frank, do you want to run the movie and?

Speaker 2 6:15
That movie sort of says it all. But there's still nursing sisters from Canada, now Afghanistan and Iraq. And all those years in between the genes one of them a complete contingency of nursing sister's case you're wondering does include physiotherapist, occupational therapists, dietitians, and actual registered nurses. After World War Two brought closer to the military hospitals across Canada, only 80 nurses 30 RC AMC 30 Verse CHF and 20 RC and joined the permanent force many went on to Staff Department of Veteran Affairs hospitals and mental hospitals across the country. Okay, nursing officers who came to Salt Spring Island include World War One Annie Cohoon who became the first matron of Lady mental hospital if you're in the audience today and you're a nursing sister would you please stand

Speaker 2 7:25
up Okay, for those you want to remain standing and tell me what your designation is so I know where you are on here. Jean Do you want to go first?

Speaker 2 8:10
Yep and Eleanor has excellent pictures there that her husband and her took a V Day and Normandy and up on those ships that you saw in the in the North Atlantic. Just some beautiful stuff there to look at. I know you weren't supposed to take those pictures

Unknown Speaker 8:43
good for you?

Speaker 2 9:16
Very good. I'm gonna go through the list of nursing sisters that came to Saltspring calendar and gene of MEK Mark dove who was passed on Betty ball kitty cotton, Helen Dalgliesh. Isabel Fitch, Rose Hazzard, Jean Holmes, Mary Kirkpatrick, Pat lavender, Gerald, Layard, elder Lloyd Charlotte McManus, Janet Newstead, Muriel Osbourne, Mary points, Janet rush, Grace Walbridge and Suzanne winter. Got your nursing sisters on Saltspring

Speaker 2 10:00
On behalf of the Canadian Nurses Association, and your fellow nurses across the country, happy nursing week 2009 in Canada and thank you for being Canada's unsung hero

Speaker 2 10:28
Are there any other nurses in the audience? Yes. You This is a one of our domestic nurses from Saltspring to so we have one of the nurses here. Very good. Okay with the nurses in the audience, please come forward. I have envelopes. First day stamps the 100 years of the Canadian Nurses Association last year and you're getting a first day cover. So you want to come forward Elena Jean down, Pat. Carolyn you're coming up here? Very evil

Unknown Speaker 11:27
Thank you very much.

Speaker 2 12:12
A year domestic nurse. You're a nurse in Canada. That's what we're celebrating is National Nursing week. And another one got more nurses here. Wow. Okay. Here you go. Without nursing sisters and without nurses, Canada would Canada would be a different place today. Now, I guess there's refreshments. And I want to say thank you for asking me. And I'll turn it back over I guess and thank you again to all those nurses and all the ones that don't serve

Unknown Speaker 12:49
thanks very much.