"Caregiving on the Front: The Experience of Canadian Military Nurses During World War I"

The following text is a digital version of:

Allard, Geneviève. "Caregiving on the Front: The Experience of Canadian Military Nurses During World War I." In On All Frontiers: Four Centuries of Canadian Nursing. Christina Bates, Dianne Dodd and Nicole Rousseau (eds.). Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2005, p. 153-167 (chapter 10). Source

Table of Contents


During the years leading up to World War I, the nursing profession in Canada had begun to be organized: among other things, schools were opened and associations were created, helping to establish the professional status of the caregiver's work in society. During this period, aware of the advantages that the presence of nurses would provide during military operations, the Canadian army invited groups of nurses to accompany the troops on various military expeditions, and these invitations were the prelude to the creation of a true military nurses' service in 1908. However, in September 1914, even after ten years in existence, the Canadian Army Nursing Service comprised fewer than 30 reservists, only five of whom were permanent members. And its members were poorly prepared to handle the events that they were about to face. A few months before the war, Margaret MacDonald was appointed matron-in-chief of the CANC under the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Using her experience in the Boer War and in Canadian military hospitals, MacDonald had to mobilize a convoy of military nurses to serve overseas. An appeal was launched, and less than three weeks after Canada declared war, nurses with diplomas from all regions of the country offered their services for the duration of the war. Two thousand and three women enlisted in the CANC and were sent overseas. During the war, these nurses cared for almost 540 000 soldiers, working near the front lines, even risking their lives, as full members of the CEF; in fact, 53 of them lost their lives on active duty. They stirred the popular imagination and benefited from an aura of prestige.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the front was perceived as an exclusively male domain. In principle, women had neither the skills nor the qualities required to practise their profession there. The realities of the Great War, however, made the presence of women caregivers necessary, even indispensable, in proximity to the line of fire.

Acclaimed as war heroines at the time of demobilization, this group of caregivers had helped to provide the young profession of nursing and its training program with a stamp of legitimacy, and it saw its golden age in the years following World War I. Was this in part thanks to the visibility that the military nurses achieved? Although we know surprisingly little about the military experiences of these women — few historians have taken an interest and the nurses themselves have remained very discreet — the personal diaries, correspondence, and accounts of these women have begun to be gathered, analyzed, and studied. They demonstrate that on both the professional and personal levels, having been to war marked their lives. Nurses' presence in and contribution to the CEF improved the organization of medical care at the front and, as a consequence, had a noticeable effect on the physical and mental health of the soldiers under their care, just as, conversely, the conflict had an effect on the nurses' lives.

It is therefore of great interest to examine the origins and components of the CANC, as well as how nursing was practised at the front, in order to understand how military nursing during World War I fit within and had an impact on the development of the nursing profession in Canada.

The Canadian Army Nursing Service: Brief History of the Military Nursing Service

The military nursing service is indebted, above all, to the volunteer efforts of nurses who, in various ways, made a difference during wartime by demonstrating the usefulness, and even the necessity, of their activity. Florence Nightingale is considered, rightly or wrongly, the pioneer of modern nursing, and in particular of military nursing. Her service tending to soldiers during the Crimean War (1854-56) and her constant efforts to improve the effectiveness of nurses' work convinced both the public and the military authorities that it was essential to organize a more complete medical corps within the armed forces instead of offering the services of only one medical officer per regiment.

Nightingale's experiences1

also showed that an effective nursing service had to be independent of the military authorities. As a consequence, the British nursing service began to establish its own structures in 1855. Although attached to the army, the nursing service was autonomous on the administrative level. The British Nurse Corps borrowed some operating rules from the Armed Forces, notably the wearing of a uniform, respect for hierarchy, and adherence to a strict code of conduct. The CANC, created and placed under the charge of the Department of Militia and Defence, took inspiration from British traditions, but quickly went in its own direction.2


In 1870, military troops were sent to the Canadian Northwest to quell the Metis Rebellion, led by Louis Riel. Minister of Militia and Defence Adolphe Caron assigned Lieutenant-Colonel Darby Bergin the task of organizing the medical services to accompany the members of the RCMP. Bergin intended to hire women to be part of the medical service.

Four volunteer civilian nurses were selected to care for the wounded for a period of several months. Having quickly proved how useful they were, these nurses were followed, at the end of their tour of service, by successive groups of volunteer nurses until the hostilities ended. The nurses were warmly applauded for their courage and endurance, and they received — rare for women at the time — a military decoration, the Northwest Medal,3

as a reward for their efforts.


Given the success of the organization of medical care during the Northwest Rebellion, Lieutenant-Colonel Bergin planned to create a permanent army medical corps composed of doctors and nurses, which would be independent of the other army corps. Once peace was re-established, the project was more or less shelved, but the idea of maintaining a regular group of nurses to care for soldiers began to be considered.

In 1898, the federal government sent 200 volunteer soldiers to the Yukon to support the RCMP, which was dealing with problems caused by the gold rush. No medical officer accompanied the contingent, but four nurses from the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) made the trip and bore the main responsibility for medical care of the soldiers on the long journey to Dawson City. They also tended to the residents of the various mining villages located on the route northward.

The trip took three months, and when they arrived in Dawson City, the four nurses remained there to tend to the region's population. Their work, performed under difficult conditions — inadequate facilities, lack of equipment, inclement weather — earned them praise and the respect of the Canadian military authorities.

However, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) had not yet integrated nurses into its permanent structures. When the Boer War was declared in 1899, the medical services of the Canadian Army, created when hostilities began between the British and South Africans, did not include a military nursing service. Nevertheless, the Canadian military authorities made the decision to attach a group of nurses to the convoy of soldiers sent to the front, and eight nurses were selected to accompany the several thousand Canadian volunteers.4


The nurses sent to South Africa, unlike those who went to the Yukon under the VON banner, wore uniforms supplied by the Canadian army.

Following this war, in 1899, the general director of the CAF's medical services recommended that an official military nursing corps be formed. With the support of the commander of the Canadian militia, who had been impressed once more by the nurses' work in emergency situations, the recommendation was accepted, and the Canadian Army Nursing Service began to be built in 1901. Even before the corps's administrative structure was established, Great Britain found itself embroiled in renewed hostilities in South Africa. Eight nurses, four of whom had served in the first episode of the war, went to South Africa, this time as full members of the new Canadian military nursing service.5


In 1904, the CAF completely reformed its medical services. As part of the administrative restructuring, it was decided that the nursing service would become part of the Reserves, a section of the Armed Forces composed of semi-permanent members who, as the name implies, would supplement regular sections if armed conflict arose. Twenty-five nurses were selected to form the service.

However, it was not until 1908, when Georgina Fane Pope became the first matron-in-chief of the CANC — and, as a consequence, the first permanent member of the unit — that the service began its official existence. Among this pioneer's accomplishments was her contribution to the establishment of operating and recruitment rules for the corps's members. During her mandate, Fane Pope was concerned mainly with the management of military hospitals and recruitment of nurses. In addition, she had the nurses' uniform changed from khaki to navy blue and military insignia added.6


The Canadian Army Nurses: Who Were They

At the dawn of World War I, the nursing profession was a sector of female professional employment that was expanding and becoming structured. Nurses represented only 2 percent of the female workforce as a whole — a negligible proportion. 7

But the profession was burgeoning, and training schools were being opened at a brisk pace. By 1921, the number of nurses had quadrupled. World War I seems to have played some role in the expansion of the profession through, among other things, the creation of the CANC.


Few official statistics exist on the subject. However, although the analysis of the various sources available on the careers of Canadian army nurses does not allow us to make hasty generalizations on the military nurses who served in World War I, it is possible to draw out some interesting information and discern trends characteristic of the group.8


Most Canadian military nurses were born in Canada or the British Isles; the majority had been brought up in cities, and they therefore had easier access to training than did their rural counterparts, as nursing schools were concentrated in urban centres. Most of them grew up in middle class milieus; their fathers were clergymen, physicians, accountants, or businessmen. They were generally better educated than the average among women at the time. Most had gone to high school, and some had even gone to university. A number had had paid work as governesses, teachers, or clerks before going to nursing school, which accepted applicants only aged 21 and over.

Some of the nurses in the CEF were trained in Canadian nursing schools; others, in Great Britain; a few had gone to the United States to study. Most joined the CANC soon after completing their training. In 1914, they were on average 24 years old.

At the beginning of the conflict, most nurses were sent to Europe, where convoys of nurses were posted until 1917. Many stayed until the hostilities ended. All were demobilized at the end of the war, and many got married and had children. However, a good number stayed single, not a common occurrence among women in general at the time. Among the single women, most returned to the labour market and worked in the health care sector, if not always as nurses.

Before the war, nurses recruited to serve in the Nurses Service were chosen from among civilian nurses. They had to be single and in good health, and have a diploma in nursing from a recognized school. Once selected, the applicants went for four to six weeks of training at the Halifax military hospital to learn the rudiments of military nursing. They then took an oral and written examination, after which they were officially admitted to the CANC and received the rank of lieutenant, along with all the advantages of the rank: salary, leaves, retirement plan. However, their authority as officers was limited to the functions that they executed in the hospitals. They had no decisionmaking power at the military level, unlike medical officers. In addition, although they were lieutenants, they were known simply as "nursing sisters," a title reminiscent of the religious vocation with which caregiving tasks were often associated.

Of all the nurses on active duty during World War I, only the Canadian nurses were under the direct control of the army and held a military rank. In comparison, the British nursing services were affiliated with the army, but not integrated into it. The higher status accorded to the nursing profession in Canada than in Great Britain may explain, at least in part, this breach of tradition by the Canadian military authorities. Most Canadian nurses with diplomas had gone to high school, and in Canada, training in a nursing school was seen as a sign of prestige.9



Margaret MacDonald, who succeeded Fane Pope as matron-in-chief of the CANC, was quite critical of how members were recruited. The selection process, she felt, was an impediment to the rapid establishment of a large corps of nurses. To solve this problem, she suggested that the military nursing courses be given in various hospitals across Canada and that nurses be allowed to go to the soldiers' training camps to put into practice the military training that they had acquired, which differed, in her opinion, from training for civilian nursing. In addition, after applying pressure on the minister of defence, MacDonald went to Great Britain in 1911 to study the administration and organization of the British military nurses' corps, on which the Canadian corps was based. The goal of the trip was to learn the methods of British military nurses, who were more numerous and better organized, and import these methods to the Canadian corps so that it would operate more smoothly during armed conflicts.10

In spite of these efforts, in 1914, the CANC, like the rest of the CEF, was ill prepared for the challenges that awaited it. Nevertheless, the lack of organization did not mean a lack of human resources. Throughout the war, enlistment applications by nurses always surpassed the number of places available in the corps.


It is not surprising that the Department of Defence received so many applications from nurses wishing to join the CEF, in spite of the danger inherent in the war context. The reasons for wanting to enlist in the CANC were many and diverse. The job prospects for nurses were still quite dim and salaries were low, so the possibility of regular and higher pay and the advantageous conditions associated with military work made it attractive. The CEF also offered adventure, an exciting life, and new professional challenges. In addition, the economic and political context of the time lent itself to an emerging desire for a military career. Propaganda in favour of the war encouraged young women, like young men, to take part in the war effort. The idea of enlisting was imbued with romanticism, represented by the elegance of the uniform, it seems, and its draw as a symbol of courage and patriotism.

To mobilize rapidly the convoy of nurses required by the Department of Militia and Defence, the overly long selection process was considerably shortened. Top priority was given to reservist nurses who had already received the training dispensed in the military hospitals. The other nurses were chosen from among the hundreds of applications received. The young women were selected rapidly, all according to the same criteria: in good health, unmarried, with nursing training. However, the examination and six weeks of training were abandoned. Although morality was not one of the official selection criteria, a letter of recommendation from a religious leader was not without a certain influence in an application. Similarly, a young woman supported by a politician or wealthy person might see her application progress more quickly. No military experience was required, and military training was given quickly, as time permitted, often shipboard on the way to Europe. The first contingent, composed of 100 nurses, embarked for Great Britain in September 1914. A number of other convoys succeeded them in the following months.

The Work of Military Nurses

Living Conditions

Nothing in the conflicts that had gone before World War I foretold the breadth of that conflict. New weapons, new combat tactics, and the number of countries and soldiers involved were all factors that radically changed the ways that war was waged. As a consequence, the pace at which patients entered and left the various hospitals and dressing stations, the nature and seriousness of the wounds, and the care required meant that certain aspects of their job diverged greatly from what nurses had experienced as students or in civilian practice. It was not the administration of care itself that was transformed, but the conditions under which caregiving took place on the front.

The state of war, the reality of which the nurses really became aware on their ocean voyage to Europe on ships escorted by armed vessels, was even more striking when they arrived in England. While some rationing and conscription had been instituted in Canada, such measures, and others, such as the curfew, were naturally more severe in the United Kingdom and on the other war fronts.

The first war measures to which nurses were subjected concerned food and lodging. In each combat zone, whether England, the Continent, or the Mediterranean, specific difficulties arose. Provisions were reduced: sugar, butter, coffee, chocolate, and meat were rare foods. On the Mediterranean, the lack of potable water represented an even more severe health risk. Moreover, the poisoning of water reserves, a war tactic frequently employed by the enemy, made work and daily life even more difficult to manage; because the limited supply of potable water was reserved for drinking, the personal hygiene of the nurses, their patients, and their workplace quickly came to be considered secondary.

In terms of housing, some nurses had a better time than did others. In England and France, the nurses serving in towns or villages often had the chance to live in buildings, sometimes even villas or castles. Closer to the lines of combat, the nurses had to content themselves with canvas tents or wooden shelters. Whether or not their lodgings had walls, all nurses had to deal with a very real problem: vermin. Fleas, insects of all sorts, and rats infested all types of care units. The rats, in particular, seemed to be afraid of nothing. At night, they threw themselves on any trace of food and even attacked patients. Finally, frequent trips between dressing stations — an inconvenience, aggravated by the lack of communications, which resulted in wasted time, equipment, and personal objects — attacks, and bombings were all part of daily life on the front. Although they were accepted as inevitable in a war situation, bombardments were still a terrifying, and life-threatening, reality.

Working Conditions

Within the army's medical services, doctors and nurses were assigned to four types of patient-care units: field ambulances, evacuation posts, stationary hospitals, and general hospitals. Wounded soldiers were first taken to the field ambulances, infirmaries located close to the front, staffed by soldiers who gave only first aid. Patients were immediately transported to medical evacuation posts for a more complete examination by a physician. In theory, no nurse was supposed to work so close the hostilities, although some did so under specific circumstances — for example, to accompany a surgeon posted to one of these facilities. It should be noted that field ambulances and evacuation posts were not equipped to hold patients for more than a few hours.

Patients were then transported to the stationary hospital, located relatively close to the front, managed by a matron-in-chief in charge of 16 nurses. These hospitals had about 250 beds. Those with serious injuries requiring a long convalescence or suffering from various diseases were sent to general hospitals, permanent buildings located in Great Britain that could house more than 500 patients. The nursing staff in these hospitals was composed of a matron-in-chief and 72 nurses. The nursing units rotated between various stationary and general hospitals; a nurse might change posts several times during her military service. In addition, a nursing unit might be broken up and its members allocated to various hospitals depending on personnel needs determined by the circumstances of the war.

With regard to the nursing work itself, it was the conditions surrounding administration of care, rather than nursing techniques in themselves, that were different from those in civilian society. Working conditions were considerably more rigorous because of the irregular pace of often massive admissions, a normal consequence of the advance or withdrawal of troops, which added to the already heavy load of care for those with diseases and accidental injuries. Nurses also had to deal with a lack of hygiene and insufficient equipment and personnel, but this shortfall was explained mainly by the irregular influx of injured soldiers, which made it impossible to know how many patients to be prepared for at any given time.

During an offensive, a dressing station close to the line of fire might be completely overwhelmed. Under cover of night, trucks filled with muddy wounded soldiers would be unloaded and handed over to the nurses, who, between stretchers crammed together or beside soldiers lying on the ground, had to try to staunch hemorrhages, set bones, and ensure the survival of their patients until they were transported farther behind the lines to receive appropriate care. The daily work of the nurses in units farther from the front was just as laborious. Climatic conditions and life in the trenches favoured the outbreak of epidemics, so many beds were occupied by soldiers suffering from infectious diseases, which in fact accounted for almost 70 percent of cases admitted to hospital.11


 In this context, we cannot conclude that World War I was synonymous with a medical revolution in terms of practical nursing work and administration of care. Of course, certain techniques — blood screening, blood transfusions, and urinary screening for certain diseases — were developed and began to be widely used during this period and some specialized disciplines — psychotherapy, physiotherapy, orthopedics, and dietetics — were in their infancy. But the fact remains that nurses were performing the same actions as in civilian hospitals: administering treatment for known diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza, and dysentery; changing dressings and disinfecting wounds; and, of course, seeing to the well-being of patients by providing food and tending to the body, and dispensing various ministrations and comforting words.

Another element had a considerable impact on military nursing: modernization of warfare techniques. The means used during military operations, such as poison gas, shrapnel, and bombardment, often caused injuries that represented medical challenges previously unknown to nurses. Along the same lines, the new combat tactics, the duration of the war, and the dropping morale of the troops were responsible for a constantly growing number of mental illnesses that manifested themselves in night terrors, insomnia, bed-wetting, and other symptoms. At the time, physicians did not have medications to prescribe for such conditions, and nurses had to call on their specific strengths to do what they do best in administering treatment: applying compresses, washing eyes, and applying balms for gas burns, providing comfort and a receptive ear, creating a warm and familial environment, and prescribing rest and diet for the most disturbed patients.

For the nurses, care provision at the front represented a major professional challenge at the technical, personal, and moral levels. Working in such unsanitary conditions, and at such a feverish pace, went counter to what they had learned in their professional training, with its emphasis on extreme cleanliness and personal attention accorded to each patient, and this at a time when hospital stays were very long. As a consequence, nurses often found themselves facing moral dilemmas for which they were not prepared, such as deciding to leave a dying patient alone to see to the pressing needs of those who had a chance to survive.

The high mortality rate of patients was another reality that military nurses had to face. Although they had dealt with death before, they had never been confronted with the loss of so many patients, especially ones so young, at once. Isolation — being far their families and friends — was another difficult aspect of life at the front. On top of this was exhaustion, which also affected the nurses' health.

Professional Relations and Social Life

The isolation and sadness that were the realities of the front - along with the omnipresent danger, the constant work, and the forced proximity in which doctors, nurses, and patients had to live - encouraged a sense of friendship, solidarity, and loyalty. The members of the Nursing Service were young, single, far from home, and often scared; social conventions tended to melt away in a time of war. All of this made it easy to form deep friendships. Military nurses remember a working atmosphere in which the rules of the game were based on co-operation and respect. Respect for authority and exemplary behaviour were top priorities on the front, and nurses had been indoctrinated into this comportment through their professional training. However, it seems that in the context of war, the perception of absolute authority was attenuated in favour of the collaboration needed to pursue a central objective: care of the ill and wounded.

But intimacy was the flip side of overcrowding. Groups of friends might form on the basis of the reputation of their school, the size of the hospital where they had studied, where they had come from, or for other reasons. These distinctions might also provoke jealousy since they marked, symbolically, the professional status of the nurses, a status not yet secure in society at the time. Promotions and greater responsibilities could also be a source of envy, an indication that nurses were not without professional ambitions given the possibilities of advancement offered by military service.

More tense, it seems, were the relations between Canadian and foreign nurses, particularly the British ones. These tensions were due to the more advantageous conditions that Canadian nurses enjoyed. Their higher salaries, more distinctive uniforms, and apparent popularity with the officers seem to have inspired jealousy among their foreign colleagues. However, the greatest source of frustration with regard to the Canadian nurses had to do with their military rank. Indeed, their officer status gave them greater freedom of movement and a higher level of prestige, two elements that their foreign counterparts did not enjoy. The rules of the Canadian and British armies required that officers, female or male, communicate only with their peers unless they were in civilian clothing, so the British military nurses, without a military rank, could not spend time with their own officers or with those of the CAF if they were in uniform. On the other hand, the Canadian military nurses could spend time only with other officers because of their rank as lieutenants. It is thus understandable that the British nurses perceived the arrival of the Canadians with some apprehension. What is more, the Canadians' rapidly acquired reputation for compassion, gentleness, and hospitality made them formidable rivals.

The military nurses also formed relationships with soldiers. At the time, hospital stays, even in the context of war, were quite long. Nurses therefore had the time to get to know the soldiers in their care and to enjoy their presence. They got to know patients and their families, and they often became attached to them. These relationships, formed over time, did, however, have certain disadvantages. Because they came to care for their patients, the nurses might worry about their futures and mourn their deaths — not to mention the pernicious effect of having to see them suffer.

Paradoxically, according to the testimonies, correspondence, and interviews that military nurses have left to us, the counterpart to the chaotic and dark world of war was the great importance accorded to social life on the front. Between enemy attacks and work shifts, nurses wanted to have fun, and they often went out with medical officers or other available officers. Diversions included dances, eating together, and sports. The favourite British game, tennis, proved quite popular among the nurses, as did other sporting activities. The most popular English ritual was afternoon tea. Having tea meant visiting friends in nearby hospitals, meeting officers or soldiers in an environment outside of the hospital, and a change in routine. Often, English families living near the care units invited nurses to tea in a gesture of welcome and hospitality.

The best-attended social events were evenings of dancing and music. During calm periods, any excuse served to get together, organize concerts, and have dances. Often, the patients took the initiative for these parties, or they took part, performing to entertain their friends. Professional orchestras, some of them very famous at the time, sometimes came to play. The possibility of meeting a suitor during these outings was on the minds of some nurses; such encounters might lead to marriage proposals, which, in the opinion of many young women, represented the best possible outcome to their career.

Travel was also an important aspect of military nurses' social life. They used their leaves to visit Europe, taking trips that were not easily available to civilian nurses. They enjoyed great freedom because of the distance and the circumstances of the war, which led to a degree of flexibility in the observation of conventions that normally applied to respectable young women. Outings, encounters, and entertainment of all sorts might give the impression that life at the front was life as usual for these young, single nurses, especially because the context of the war meant that most of them led a much freer existence than their civilian colleagues. Nevertheless, the war and its consequences were a reality that bore its share of daily difficulties.


The participation of military nurses in the war seems to have been so highly valued that they enjoyed unequalled respect when they returned home. In the years following World War I, their contribution to the Canadian war effort and to the nursing profession was publicly commemorated by the erection of a monument in Parliament in honour of all Canadian nurses. This prestige reflected on the profession as a whole; from the time of the war to the 1930s was the golden age of professionalization of nursing in Canada. The recognition that nurses acquired is due, among other things, to the fact that military nurses, through their training, ingenuity, and resourcefulness, carved themselves a significant and respected place in a typically male bastion.

World War I thus represents an important time in the evolution of the nursing profession in Canada. The CANC, formed at the beginning of the twentieth century, provided an interesting opportunity for more than 2000 graduates from nursing schools, offering them stable employment (at least for the duration of hostilities) that was well paid and filled with professional challenges and adventure. Over the four years of the war, military nurses risked their lives, worked non-stop, overcame difficult living conditions, and went through emotional times watching patients and friends perish, but they also forged friendships and a sense of solidarity that transcended their military service and had fun. Above all, they made use of their training and their personal and professional experience to improve and even save the lives of their patients.

World War I did not change how nursing was practised in as notable way as medical developments in the twentieth century would do during other wars. However, given the new combat tactics and weapons being used, along with the size of the conflict, the importance of the nurses' role as caregivers within the medical services of the CEF was convincingly demonstrated. In a context in which the power of medicine was limited and diseases abounded, nurses offered specific health care skills that were utterly indispensable.

In addition, the presence of nurses under such exceptional circumstances brought a feminine, almost maternal touch, expressed in all sorts of ways. It is in fact reasonable to think that the nurses helped to make the caregiving units warm places, providing soldiers with a home-like atmosphere.

This was the key to the success of the Canadian military nurses who served in Europe during World War I: by doing what they had learned to do, doing it well, effectively, and with dedication, they joined the other figures in the pantheon of World War I heroes. In the words of Marion Wylie, a nurse from Sutton, Ontario, who served in England and France from 1916 until demobilization, "It was very necessary and very important, on the whole, I think, very well done. I am not boasting about that, but I think the nurses worked very hard and did good work."12




  • 1. To learn more about the life and work of Florence Nightingale, see F B Smith, Florence Nightingale: Reputation and Power (London: Croom Helm, 1982), and Vern L Bullough, Bonnie Bullough, and Marietta P Stanton, Florence Nightingale and Her Era: A Collection of New Scholarship (New York: Garland, 1990).
  • 2. Few works have been devoted solely to the history of military nurses in Canada. John Gibbon and Mary Matthewson devote a chapter to the subject in their study Three Centuries of Canadian Nursing (Toronto: The Macmillan Company, 1974 [1947]). The studies of G W L Nicholson, Seventy Years of Service (Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1977) and Canada's Nursing Sisters (Toronto: Samuel Stevens, Hakkert & Co., 1975), on the medical services in the Canadian Armed Forces, are more explicit. For an excellent bibliography and recent review of the historiography of military nurses in Canada, see the introduction and bibliography in Susan Mann, The War Diary of Clare Gass 1915 - 1918 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000)
  • 3. Nicholson, Canada's Nursing Sisters, 27.
  • 4. Ibid., 33 - 4.
  • 5. Ibid., 44.
  • 6. Ibid., 44 - 5.
  • 7. Statistics compiled from figures drawn from Department of Trade and Commerce (Census and Statistics Office) Fifth Census of Canada, 1911 (Ottawa: L Taché Printer, 1912).
  • 8. This information was extracted from 25 interviews conducted with military nurses of the Canadian Expeditionary Force from 1977 to 1979 by Margaret Allemang, as part of the Canadian Nursing Sisters of World War I Oral History Program (Toronto: University of Toronto, Faculty of Nursing, 1977 - 79).
  • 9. Nicholson, Canada's Nursing Sisters, 52.
  • 10. Ibid., 46.
  • 11. Ibid., 73.
  • 12. Marion Wylie, Canadian Nursing Sisters of World War I Oral History Program. Interview conducted by Margaret Allemang, Toronto, Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, 1979, 22.


On all frontiers : four centuries of Canadian nursing
Allard, Geneviève. -- «Caregiving on the Front : the experience of Canadian military nurses during World War I». -- Editors, Christina Bates, Dianne Dodd, Nicole Rousseau. -- Ottawa : University of Ottawa Press, 2005. -- ISBN 0776605917. -- P. 153-167 (chapter 10)
© Canadian Museum of Civilization in collaboration with the University of Ottawa Press. Credit: Geneviève Allard. Reproduced with the permission of the Museum. nlc-11250

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