The nurses could feel the battle in the distance. They knew to ready themselves for the trucks that would bring the injured to their canvas tents. Soldier after soldier would be carried into their makeshift wards on stretchers. The nurses knew the men’s suffering would be enormous and that some would die that night.
In total, 4,000 nurses served in the Second World War. All had the skills they had honed at nursing school, but little could have prepared them for the sudden massive admissions, the horrific wounds and the danger. The average age of a nurse serving in the war: 25.
In Toronto, a nursing shortage developed as nurses left the hospitals to further the war effort. Our nursing school responded by helping the university’s Extension Department offer refresher courses for married and retired nurses so they could return to the workforce. The school’s instructors also helped develop courses — such as “Wartime Problems in the Field of Communicable Disease” — to prepare nurses for military practice.
Even before Canada declared war, faculty member Jean Wilson predicted, “there would be an immediate rush by nurses to answer ‘The Call’ for their professional services.” Wilson was right. Unlike in the US, nurses in Canada were eager to serve. In fact, throughout the Second World War, more Canadian nurses volunteered than the Armed Forces had positions for. The Forces had to start a waiting list which, at one time, had the names of 8,000 nurses on it.
(“The 1940s,” Pulse magazine, vol. 3, no. 2, 22)
Below is a list of some of our alumni who contributed their efforts during World War I and II. The Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing recognizes all the nurses who did and continue to serve Canada with distinction, and thank all military men and women for their service.
Margaret Allemang (1914–2005)
Margaret Allemang graduated from the School of Nursing at the University of Toronto in 1940. In 1942, she joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and was posted to various stations within Canada until her discharge in December 1945. Following her service, Allemang used veteran’s credits to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at U of T, followed by Master’s and PhD degrees at the University of Washington. Allemang joined U of T’s nursing faculty in 1950 and remained there until her retirement. She had a passion for nursing history, studying the subject both in Canada and the United States. She also completed a major project in which she interviewed Canadian nurses had served in WWI and WWII. Allemang co-founded nursing history associations in Ontario and Canada, both of which are still in existence: the Margaret M. Allemang Society for the History of Nursing and the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing. She was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and the Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. Allemang died in Toronto on April 14, 2005 at the age of 91.
Daisy Caroline Bridges
Daisy Bridges graduated from the School of Nursing at the University of Toronto in 1938. After returning to England, she was assigned to the position of resident tutor to the international students studying in London under the League of Red Cross Societies. During WWII, she served in France, Egypt and India with the Queen Alexandra’s military nursing service for which she was later awarded the Royal Red Cross, Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), the Coronation Medal and the Florence Nightingale Medal. In 1947, she became President of the National Council of Nurses of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Following this, from 1948 to 1961, she held the position of General Secretary for the International Council of Nurse (ICN). In this position, Bridges is credited for the official recognition of the ICN by the World Health Organization (WHO), making it one of the first non-governmental organizations to be so recognized.
Ethel Cryderman was a nursing sister with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAC) during WWI. She returned to Canada to become a staff nurse and district supervisor with the Toronto Department of Health. From 1929 to 1934, she was a central office supervisor with the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada, and in 1934 was appointed to the position of District Director of the Toronto branch of this organization until her retirement. Cryderman also served within a number of professional nursing organizations at local, provincial, national and international levels. In addition to being president of her alumnae association and of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, she held the position of president of the Canadian Nurses’ Association from 1948 to 1950.
Dorothy Doan (1915–2006)
After serving during WWII with the RCAMC in Cape Town, South Africa, and Cairo, Egypt, Dorothy Doan attended the University in Toronto and completed both the Nursing Service Administration and Hospital Organizational Management programs in 1954 and 1959, respectively. Doan later became one of the first women in Canada to attain a fellowship in the American College of Hospital Administrators. In 1967, she was awarded the Canadian Centennial Medall; and, in 1992, the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal.
Evelyn Fleming (1918–2005)
Evelyn Fleming served during WWII with the RCAMC as a second lieutenant. After four months training in Kingston and Camp Debert, NS, Fleming shipped out with the No.18 Canadian General Hospital to Cherry Tree, Colchester. In 1945 she was reassigned to an army hospital in Bramshott, Hampshire, and just a year later she was transferred to a hospital in occupied Germany. On her return to Canada, Fleming took up post-graduate training at the Faculty of Nursing, obtaining a certificate in Public Health Nursing in 1948. After graduation in January 1950, Fleming enlisted in the peacetime army.
Catherine Olive Jefferson
Olive Jefferson completed a post-graduate Certificate in Public Health Nursing in 1937 at the University of Toronto. Upon graduation, she continued to work in Ontario before enlisting as a nursing sister for the RCAMC and was assigned to Canadian General Hospital No.2 in 1942. After returning from the war in 1946, Jefferson took up a position as the Director of Nursing in Walkerton, Ont. before becoming the Assistant Director of Nursing in Stratford, Ontario, the following year. In 1955, Jefferson married and retired from nursing.
A graduate from the certificate program in Hospital Nursing Service at the University of Toronto in 1940, Emma Jordison worked as a head nurse at Toronto General Hospital before enlisting in the RCAF in December 1941. During her flight nurse training in preparation for the war, Jordison earned international acclaim when she tied for first place in her class of 94 students across Canada and the US, Jordison continued to serve with the RCAF until 1944, when she married and retired from the profession.
After earning a Certificate in Public Health Nursing in 1940, Heather Kilpatrick was appointed the first director of public health nursing in British Columbia’s (BC) provincial health service. During WWII, she served with the United Nation’s Rehabilitation and Relief Administration and was assigned to the Nuseirat Camp in Palestine to help care for the Greek refugees. After the war, Kilpatrick returned home to British Columbia and became the head nurse of the outpatient department at Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver where she worked until her retirement in 1971.
Harriet T. Meiklejohn
Harriet T. Meiklejohn completed her BA at McGill University in 1903, after which she began her nursing training at Presbyterian Hospital in New York, graduating in 1906. At the outbreak of WWI, she paid her own way overseas to serve with the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) in France. For her work during the war, Meiklejohn was awarded the Royal Red Cross for distinguished service. On her return to Canada in 1919, she enrolled in the postgraduate program, Public Health Nursing, at the University of Toronto and graduated in 1921. From 1927 to 1943, Meiklejohn served as superintendent of Women’s College Hospital.
Dorothy Percy (1900–1992)
Dorothy Percy completed a certificate in Public Health Nursing at the University of Toronto in 1925 and joined the Faculty in 1934 after leaving her position as superintendent at the national headquarters of the Victorian Order of Nurses. During WWII, Percy enlisted in the RCAMC and served both overseas and in Canada. Her impeccable service earned her many awards, including the Royal Red Cross First Class, the Jubilee and Coronation Medals, the Canadian Volunteer medal and the Defense of Britain Medal. After returning from the war, Percy took up the position of Chief Supervisor of Nursing Counsellors and completed a fellowship to study in the US, the UK and Scandinavia, in order to prepare for her position as Chief Nursing Consultant for the Department of National Health and Welfare, which she held from 1953 to 1967. In 1967, Percy was awarded the first Honorary Doctorate in Nursing from the University of Ottawa; and in 1981, she was awarded the Florence Nightingale Award.
Edith Rainsford Dick
Edith Rainsford Dick was appointed to the position of superintendent of nurses at the Ontario Hospital in Mimico, and then to a similar position at the Psychiatric Hospital, Toronto one year later. In 1936, she became an inspector of Training Schools for Nurses under the Ontario Department of Health, where she remained until enlisting in the RCAMC during WWII. During her military service, Dick was appointed matron-in-charge of nursing services at the Toronto Military Hospital and later Matron-in-Chief of the RCAMC. When she was released from active service, she held the rank of Major and was awarded the Royal Red Cross, first class. On returning to Canada, Dick completed her Bachelor’s degree and certificate of Public Health Nursing from the School of Nursing at the University of Toronto and later became director of the Nurses’ Registration Branch at the Ontario Department of Health.
Gladys Sharpe (1916–2004)
Gladys Sharpe graduated from the Toronto Western Hospital School of Nursing in 1925. From 1929 to1931, she worked as a critic teacher at the School of Public Health Nursing at the University of Toronto. In 1937, Sharpe was chosen by the Canadian Nurses’ Association to travel to the University of London on a scholarship to participate in a year-long, post-graduate course in public health nursing. On New Year’s Eve 1941, Sharpe set sail for South Africa with the RCAMC. Overseas, she headed 300 Canadian nursing sisters and served as a liaison officer between the Canadian and South African governments and the British Mission to Canada. She also became the first matron of a thousand-bed hospital at Baragwanath near Johannesburg. For her service during the war, Sharpe received the Royal Red Cross Award. At the end of the war, Sharpe returned from South Africa, and in 1945, she went to Columbia University for further post-graduate work, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree. She later held the position of president of the CNA from 1954 to 1956; and, in 1959, she became the nursing consultant to the Ontario Hospital Services Commission.
Eva Wannop (–2004)
Eva Wannop graduated from nursing school in Calgary in 1939 and was accepted for further study at the University of Toronto for courses in nursing administration, supervision and public health. After requesting the University hold her position, Wannop enlisted in the RCAMC in September 1940. After serving in Canada for nearly two years, she was posted to England for the next three years. Discharged in August 1945, she returned to U of T to take up her place within the Public Health Nursing course. After graduation, she worked as a public health and industrial nurse until her retirement in 1979. Wannop died in Toronto on April 21, 2004 at the age of 92.