The Sisterhood of Newfoundland General Hospital Graduate Nurses Serving Overseas in World War I: A Family Gathering
The sisterhood of Newfoundland General Hospital graduate nurses who served overseas in World War I is part of the military legacy and the nursing education legacy of this province. At the outbreak of WWI, the General Hospital School of Nursing was the only nursing education program in Newfoundland. Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Bachelor of Nursing BN (Collaborative) program is a direct result of collaboration between Memorial and the General Hospital, Salvation Army Grace General Hospital, St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, Western Regional Memorial Hospital, and the Centre for Nursing Studies Schools of Nursing. The graduate nurses identified by this project not only remind us of our province’s outstanding military legacy, but they also remind us of the strong nursing education roots in Newfoundland and Labrador. These nurses served with the Canadian, British and American forces.
The WW100 Living Memorial Commemorative Fund provided funding for this project with the purpose of designing and mounting two interpretive panels at the entrance to the MUN School of Nursing. Those panels have now been mounted and they depict the lost stories of the twelve nurses, including their heroic efforts in the face of traumatic war experiences and personal injury and disease.
In an effort to connect with the families and descendant of these nurses, prior to mounting the panels, Quick Start Funding was obtained to hold a family gathering. Thirty-two family members attended the gathering, which was hosted at the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum. Families came from as far away as Ottawa and as close as St. John’s to share stories about their family members. As a result of this gathering, a lost military medal belonging to the brother of one of the nurses was found and donated to the museum.
The family gathering including direct descendants of the nurses including great great nieces and great great nephews, from Harbor Grace, St. John’s, Ferryland and Ottawa. Many of the family members did not know about the heroic efforts of the nurses, or that they had been awarded military medals from Canada, Britain and France. Copies of the interpretive panels were on display and families provided input into the final version of the panels. All of the families enjoyed having the opportunity to review the panels before they were mounted and all families were very appreciative of the recognition their family members were receiving. This project resulted in a new permanent memorial to the twelve Newfoundland born and educated graduates who served overseas and will serve as a permanent reminder of the contributions of Newfoundland born and educated graduate nurses in WW1.