As I sat at the dining room table and listened to Aunt Nell, my grandfather’s elderly red-haired sister, whose knees didn’t seem to want to bend, relate the interesting stories of her experiences as one of the first New Brunswick nurses to go overseas in the First World War, I could not visualize her ever being a young girl.
There were many women who played a role in Health care. Arlee Hoyt McGee’s writings of the lives of extraordinary women of New Brunswick lets us peek back in time to catch a personal glimpse of several of these ladies and how they contributed to the lives we have today.
“Alice Starr Chipman, born in Saint Stephen, became the wife of Sir Leonard Tilley, Lieutenant - Governor of New Brunswick and was the foundress of the Victoria Public Hospital in Fredericton.”
“In 1868, Amanda Viger was one of the nuns from Montreal who was chosen to set up a Lazaretto for the lepers in Tracadie, who were in desperate need of care. She was also the first nurse pharmacist.”
“Elizabeth Robinson Scovil was born on 30 April 1849 in Saint John, the second child of Samuel and Mary (Robinson) Scovil and the granddaughter of the Rev. Elias Scovil. Family obligations forced her to exchange her nursing career for a home near Gagetown where she wrote many articles, for publication, especially about children”
“Eliza P. Hegan was one of the ten women chosen for the nursing program at the General Public Hospital in 1888. She became the director of Nursing at the Victoria Public Hospital in Fredericton and also started a private hospital in Saint John”
“Kate Ryan, mistakenly referred to as Klondike Kate of dance hall fame, nursed the sick in the Klondike. She was the first woman hired by the R C M P to help with woman prisoners.”
“Georgia Pearl Pond was born in 1890 in Holtville and trained as a nurse in New Hampshire. She was a VON nurse in Fredericton where she worked alone, assisting doctors and servicing patients. She delivered babies, helped with tonsil clinics and visited the sick until her tragic death in 1953. She made a remarkable difference to the quality of life of people of New Brunswick.”
“Katherine MacLaggan of Fredericton, was convinced that children’s health care must begin with teachers in training and for a time was a Health Instructor of the Public Health at Teachers’ College.” She changed the face of nursing education in New Brunswick by taking student nurses out of the hospital workforce and into university education.
To catch a glimpse of several of the contributions of women caregivers of New Brunswick, I suggest reading “Extraordinary Women of New Brunswick" by Arlee Hoyt McGee. It is available from the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, Westminster Books at Fredericton and from the Nurses Association of New Brunswick, 165 Regent Street, Fredericton, E3B 7B4.
The author, Arlee Hoyt McGee is herself an extraordinary woman. She was the founder of the Nursing History Resource Centre in 1992 that was designed to encourage knowledge and understanding of New Brunswick's unique nursing history. Under her direction, the Centre has educated both nurses and the public on nursing history, has initiated individual and joint projects to promote nursing history, and has been involved with a variety of nursing research projects. The Centre at 165 Regent Street, Fredericton has an impressive exhibit area that includes pin and cap collections, nursing tools, medical artifacts, pictures, and uniformed mannequins. Resource material also includes collections of nursing books, scrapbooks, audiovisual artifacts, catalogued pictures, and primary and secondary source documents. Visits can be arranged, by appointment.
Some of Arlee Hoyt McGee’s other publications are, “ It’s Up To You” (The first book written on the rights of patients in New Brunswick,1991), “ Lifelines and Knots on a Lifeline” (Nurses' Poetry), “The Nurses' Walk” (Historic walking tour with illustrations), “Preserving Nurses' Experiences”, “The Victoria Public Hospital, Fredericton (1888 - 1976)”, and “The Strength of One: A History of the NB Nurses Union” are available from the Nurses Association of New Brunswick,165 Regent Street, Fredericton, E3B 7B4.
Pay a visit to the website of the Nurses Association of New Brunswick at http://www.nanb.nb.ca/en/index1.cfm?access=history3 to learn more of the history of nursing in New Brunswick and the publications that are available.