Association History


Interrelationship of Three Organizations.

The histories of the Winnipeg General Hospital (WGH)/Health Sciences Centre (HSC), the School of Nursing, and the Alumni Association of the School are closely interrelated. The WGH began modest services in 1872, was incorporated in 1875, observed its 100th Anniversary in 1972 and became the HSC in 1973. The Training School was established in 1887, commemorated its 100th Anniversary in 1987 and closed in 1993. The Alumni Association was organized in 1904 bringing 2004 to its centennial. Presently, this Association is still active.

Each organization was founded because of needs arising from the community. The hospital was required to provide medical services to the pioneer population of the city of Winnipeg. Once the Hospital was established, a Training School made possible the preparation of Graduates to provide nursing care both within the Hospital and the Community. The first student nurses completed the two year program in 1889 and the last in 1993. A Collaborative Program between the Health Sciences Centre School of Nursing and the University Of Manitoba Faculty Of Nursing resulted in Baccalaureate prepared nurses graduating in the spring of 1995. No further nurses graduated from HSC after that year.

The number of graduates steadily increased year by year and by 1904 there were 120, of which 65 came together to form the Alumnae Association of the Winnipeg General Hospital School of Nursing. The spelling for the Association appears throughout the web pages as both Alumnae and Alumni. In the early years the Association was all female members (Alumnae.) With men entering the school and joining the membership upon graduation the group became gender mixed. Thus the spelling Alumnae changed to Alumni to reflect this new reality.

First Important Initiative

The first work of the Alumni was to draw up a Nurses’ Directory. Until 1904, there was no organized way to protect the public by ensuring that anyone calling themselves a nurse was a person who had successfully completed a recognized nursing program of studies. The Alumni developed the list of such people thus establishing the Directory, and assuming responsibility for keeping it current.

First Nurses’ Registration in Canada

By 1911, the question of registration of nurses was becoming more and more insistent. In 1912, the Alumni Association, working closely with the newly formed Manitoba Graduate Nurses Association (MAGN), began to promote legislation for nursing registration. In 1913, an Act respecting “The Manitoba Association of Graduate Nurses.” was passed. As of June 1916, all nurses applying for registration under the new Act, were required to complete a recognized nurses’ training program as well as pass a registration examination. Manitoba led the way in Canada with each of the other provinces following year by year thereafter. In 1921, the Alumni voted to give up the Directory which could now become the jurisdiction of the Manitoba Association of Graduate Nurses. This latter organization evolved into the Manitoba Association of Registered Nurses (MARN) and the Directory became the Registry. This is now the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba (CRNM.) This then was an important initiative in 1904, the results of which last to this day.

Through the Years……..

Fund Raising for Special Projects

In the beginning, the Alumni, like other similar women’s service organizations, raised monies to sustain themselves through membership fees, donations from members, interested others and the Annual Fund Raising Tea which included sale of raffle tickets, handicrafts, home baking and preserves. This enabled them to have the funds to provide scholarships and financial assistance for the students in the School of Nursing, to purchase equipment for the school and the hospital that would not otherwise be available, purchase and send kits containing food treats and personal items to graduates serving overseas in the two great wars and until the 1970s, supplies were also packaged for graduates serving in international missions. With the closing of the school funds were no longer needed for undergraduate students or school equipment. The Annual Tea was discontinued years ago.

Then unexpectedly, in May 1968 an unprecedented honour was bestowed on the Association. Jane A. Malcolm, the class of 1919, died leaving a large bequest from her estate to the Alumni to provide financial assistance for students. The principal was transferred to the Winnipeg Foundation to manage the portfolio. The accrued interest became available each year up to the present for the Education Committee to disperse funds to graduates of the WGH/HSC School of Nursing who make application requesting funds for specific educational programs and continuing education.

The Annual Homecoming Reunion Events and Dinner

This annual event is the most important to all the members. The tradition began in 1910 and through to 1918 the Alumni entertained the graduating class at a reception in various locations in Winnipeg. This became an annual event with the exception of three years. The cancellations were in 1919 due to the Winnipeg General Strike, in 1943 when the funds were sent to a graduate working in war-torn China and in 1950 because of the devastating Winnipeg Red River Flood.

The Journal

The Association has maintained cohesiveness through publication and circulation of the Alumni Journal. From 1907 until 1928, the Journal was published quarterly and since 1928, annually. A special edition was published noting the Centennial Issue in 2007. The format for the Journal has changed from decade to decade to keep it looking attractive and current for the interested readers. In 2012, it was decided that communication with the alumni members would be through this website and an annual newsletter.

The Archives/Museum

What began in the early years of the 20th century with setting aside and retaining materials describing events that would become historically significant, has grown into one of the major archival holdings in Winnipeg relating to the developing saga of our local society and health care in this region. This collection which at that time, focused on the WGH/HSC, its School and its Alumni, has survived and expanded through the foresight of successive Alumni members committed to the missions of the three originating organizations. An Archivist from the membership became an officer on the Executive of the Association in 1934. This reflects the importance placed by the Alumni on retaining the Archives/Museum collection and its administration and management.

The information contained in the documents, photographs and artifacts has become a treasure trove for researchers, scholars, film makers, documentary producers, current and former students, staff, and interested members of the public. The utilization of these resources has resulted in the creation of the Museum and various publications over time about the three organizations. Notably two historical books about the School of Nursing, funded by the Alumni were published in 1953 and 1987. Another history book utilizing these holdings entitled “Healing and Hope” was published in 2009 and this book was the topic of the 2010 Annual Jubilee Memorial Lecture presentation.

Because of the conscientiousness in its stewardship and the sound foundation already established, the Administration of the HSC in 1988 requested that the Alumni become responsible for the historical archives of the entire complex. A HSC committee called the Archives Committee was formed to expedite this joint venture. By the turn of the new century 2000, it became evident that the holdings could no longer be managed by the Alumni. The stewardship of the Archives/Museum which began as low keyed unheralded activities has slowly and steadily taken on a life of its own and this trend was addressed by the Alumni as it celebrated its Centennial in 2004. Through the early years of the 21st century projects were initiated to assist with the management of the archives/museum holdings into the future.

In 2008, the Alumni Association entered into a formal agreement with the Health Sciences Centre Foundation (HSCF) to establish the Archives/Museum Collection Endowment Fund. The goal for the endowed Fund is to provide monies for the professional management, preservation, and enhancement of the Collection in perpetuity.

In 2011, the Alumni Association signed two Memorandums of Agreement with the Administration Corporate Body of the HSC. The first related to Expenditure of Funds from the Archives/Museum Collection Endowment Fund and the second related to Operational Guidelines for Provision of Services within the HSC Archives/Museum. These Agreements signed by and held on file by both the Administration and the Alumni outline in detail the operational expectations. Thus the beginning of the new century of the Alumni is fully documented and the HSC Archives/Museum continues on a solid foundation.

Looking Forward from this Historical Background

The Annual Homecoming Events have between 300-400 attending during the last week of each May.

The Education Funds have been build up by the management and administration of the Winnipeg Foundation so that the Alumni has sufficient funds to continue to offer educational financial support for the graduates of the school with their varied continuing educational programs.

The Archives/Museum which now focuses on the entire Health Sciences Centre campus and its founding members is on a solid foundation with the introduction of formal written agreements governing the funding for the collection and the expectations of the stakeholders as the holdings continue to expand. Following a review in 2008-2009, the Archives Committee is now called the Heritage Committee and is composed of members from all sectors of the HSC campus. This ensures those sitting on the committee have a commitment to and interest in the endeavours defined in its stated purpose.

Memoirs of the Victorian Order of Nurses

For the past year a committee of six retired nurses has been working to create a book of memoirs of the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). The book was originally the idea of Margaret Mackling(1946),well known and respected nursing educator and long-time Director of the Winnipeg Branch of the VON. Sadly, due to her sudden passing, Mrs. Mackling did not see her idea materialize, but the work was taken up by the committee of six former nurses, five of whom had worked with the VON. The book was completed and was ‘launched’ at a luncheon at Rae and Jerry’s Restaurant on December 12th, 2013.

The memoirs entitled "The Hands and Hearts of the VON" contains contributions from sixty-five former Victorian Order nurses. It presents a history of the organization which provided home nursing services to citizens of Winnipeg for almost one hundred years. It contains several chapters of memoirs from visiting nurses, some poignant, some humorous, all accurate and informative. It chronicles the development of nursing programs implemented by the VON which offered highly specialized nursing services to patients at home. And it devotes one section to Margaret Mackling in tribute to her and her outstanding work of forty three years with the VON, and her exemplary dedication to the nursing profession in general. This volume provides a delightful and insightful overview of the work of the VON which was, for so many years, the highly respected provider of home care nursing in Winnipeg.

The organization no longer exists in our city in the way it did from 1905 until 2001. But its spirit does carry on in the minds of many who wished to tell their stories and to have them be part of the written history of nursing in Winnipeg.
The book is available for viewing or ordering through Blurb Publishing at

Typing the book title in the Blurb search engine will take you directly to the book for viewing. For those interested in ordering a copy, instructions are available by contacting the Editor (Joanne) at

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