Historical Stories From The Archives


Student Beginnings

In October 1875, on one and one half acres of land donated by Mr. Andrew McDermot and Mr. A.G.B. Bannatyne the first building of the Winnipeg General Hospital was opened. Twenty patients could be accommodated and nursing care was given by men appointed as stewards.

The first matron, Mrs. Martin, arrived in 1880 but it wasn’t until 1882 under head nurse Mrs. Camile Brown that it was decided that patient care could be entrusted to women.

With the addition of a new building in 1884 containing 72 patient beds, five nurses who had some practical experience were recruited from eastern hospitals. The establishment of the Medical School at this time meant the Winnipeg General was now a teaching hospital.

In 1886, Mary Ellen Birtles came to “learn nursing”. And in the next year, 1887, in November, the Winnipeg General Hospital Nurse Training School was opened. This was the first nurse training school in Western Canada. The Medical Superintendent was in charge of the School.

After completing a nursing program of primarily on- the- job training (there were a few lectures given by doctors) the first class graduated in 1889 from a two year diploma program. Their final exams were oral exams given by the doctors. At their graduation exercises, the graduates, Sarah Birtle, Mary Ellen Birtle, Jessie McDougall and Margaret Laidlaw received diplomas and silver Maltese Cross pins that had the Winnipeg General Hospital Training School and their names engraved on them.

The Nurses’ Alumni Archives/Museum wants your nursing records and memorabilia.

Some of the things that may be of interest to us are:

If you have articles or artefacts that you think might be of interest to the WGH/HSC Archives Museum contact the Health Sciences Centre Archivist, Emma Prescott at (204)787-1170.


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