Newsletter July 2008

July 15, 2008


Feature Article

Louise Brent, Nurse Leader

Louse Brent, Lady Superintendent of the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) 1896 – 1913 made a major contribution to pediatric care and to nurse training. As one of the first generation of trained nurses, she contributed significantly to the founding of professional nursing organisations in Canada.

Born October 9, 1856, the daughter of James W. Brent and Mary Ann Holland, Brent was educated at Miss Stubbs Private School in Toronto and at 32 years of age entered training at the Brooklyn City Hospital, New York. She graduated in 1890, returned to Toronto as Lady Superintendent of the Grace Hospital then, after six years, moved to the Hospital for Sick Children. Selected by John Ross Robertson, wealthy businessman, philanthropist and Chairman of the HSC Board, Brent proved a worthy ally for Robertson in his drive to place HSC at the forefront of scientific pediatric care (the fact that Brent was related to him by marriage probably helped to smooth her path).

Brent quickly extended the length of nurse training at HSC from two to three years but had to wait until the opening of a new residence, in 1907, to make further significant changes. The splendid new residence with its excellent classrooms facilities provided Brent with the means to up-grade the training program. Annie Kinder was hired as the first full-time teacher and a dietician and masseuse added to the teaching staff. A three-month, preliminary training program, innovative at the time, was instituted. On entry, pupil nurses undertook a structured program classes with some practical work and were required to pass an exam before proceeding with the course. The new residence provided each pupil nurse with a comfortably furnished room; the on-site swimming pool, gym, tennis court, and skating rink were intended to promote ‘physical culture’ among the young women.

In the hospital Brent oversaw such innovations as a visiting nurse, the opening of a special infant unit, and a plant to pasteurize milk. Visiting nurse, Florence Charters, made discharge visits to children considered at risk (Robertson supplied her with a natty roadster). A special infant unit, opened near the end of Brent’s tenure was based on the Pasteur Institute in Paris and designed to prevent cross infection, a major cause of in-hospital infant deaths. The milk plant run by a graduate nurse, and staffed by pupil nurses, provided formulas for the hospital and safe milk that parents were able to collect for home use.

Brent’s status as an authority on pediatric nursing was acknowledged in 1900 when the newly-published American Journal of Nursing named her in charge of its ‘Children’s Department.’ In this capacity she selected pediatric articles for the journal. In her own writings she outlined her beliefs about nursing. The ‘maternal instinct,’ she considered, was a necessary attribute for pediatric nurses as children in hospital needed mothering; they also needed diversion in order to be happy. She felt children could teach us a great deal and when she was disheartened she worked with “her babies” in order to lift her spirits. Teachers, she hoped would instill “a spirit of self sacrifice and love” in their students.

Brent was active in organisational work. She encouraged HSC graduates to form an Alumnae Association and became its Honorary President. She was a Vice President of the Canadian Association of Trained Nurses (CNA) and a President of the Canadian Hospital Association. When the CNA sought membership in the International Council of Nurses, she was part of the official delegation.

At the age of 57 years, Brent resigned in order to marry William Goodson of Chicago. At a pre-wedding reception at the Toronto Graduate Nurses Club she was honoured by many well-wishers and, according to the Canadian Nurse, “looked charming in white charmeuse and shadow lace” and wearing a diamond and platinum pendant, the gift of the HSC medical staff. Little is known of Brent’s later life. Following her husband’s death, she spent time with nieces in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Montreal. She died in Montreal in 1942 at the age of 85.


  1. Short biography of Louise Brent by Miss Grindley, HSC Asst. Supt. of Nurses, 1942 (HSC Archives).
  2. Trustee Minutes (HSC Archives).
  3. Canadian Nurse
  4. American Journal of Nursing

Judith Young


Canadian Association for the History of Nursing/L’Association Canadienne pour L’Histoire du Nursing
2008 International History of Nursing Conference

“Borders, Boundaries and Political Context in Nursing and Health Care History”

The CAHN-ACHN International Nursing History Conference was a great success. From the time of early registration to the closing session about how to get published participants were engaged and enthusiastic. Every paper elicited comments, questions and discussion — much of which continued after the sessions ended.

The first Hannah Lecturer, Catherine Ceniza Choy confronted the issue of migration of nurses from developing countries to the United States. Her question was: what would be the effect of studying nurse’s migration within the broader context of migration research? Marilyn Beaton and Jeannette Walsh also looked at migration and recruitment. They underlying question of both papers becomes a moral question of ‘brain drain’.

Religion and politics and the shifting ground between the old religious culture of 19th century France and the rise of secular (scientific) professional nursing of the 20th century was the topic of many papers such as our second Hannah speaker, Katrin Schultheiss. Judith Godden explored the effects of these shifts on individual leaders.

There were also papers that surprised. For example, was I the only one who did not know that Effie Taylor was the one who conceptualized ‘total patient care’ which set the foundation of modern nursing care? Also imagine someone who would dare challenge evidenced based nursing practice.

The annual banquet held in historic Osgoode Hall – with a reception in the newly-restored Barristers’ lounge – lent our conference a tone of grace and dignity it truly deserved. Alice Baumgart brought greetings from CNA. She outlined some of the highlights of CNA’s first hundred years and proposed plans for the coming years. Thank you Carol, Judy and the rest of the planning committee for a job well done.

Lynn Kirkwood

News Items

Dr. Helen K. Mussallem

Dr. Mussallem was named by the Royal College of Nurses as “Canada’s Most Distinguished Nurse in Her Time and Generation” by the Royal College of Nurses. She has many numerous awards, medals and publications and honourary doctorates, and was Canada’s first nurse to obtain a doctorate from Columbia University in 1948. Dr. Mussallem graduated from the Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing in 1937. She joined the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant and served in both Canada and overseas. Her major-life work was getting nurses out of the control of hospitals where they were treated like “indentured labour” and into educational institutions where proper curriculum could be taught. This came about after she conducted an Evaluation of Schools of Nursing in Canada under the auspices of CNA. Under the World Health Organization, she carried out assessments of nurses and nursing education in 38 countries.

Dr. Mussallem served as Executive Director of CNA from 1963-1981. She initiated an Archive of Canadian Nursing, which became part of the exhibit at the Museum of Civilization in 2005. Many honours have been bestowed on her: Officer of the Order of Canada in 1992, a Companion of the Order; Dame of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem. In Ottawa the National Nursing Library was named in her honour.

One of her adventures abroad to consult took her to Barbados. At a party in the hills hosted by the Premier she met four charming young men with, she thought, rather long hair. They were composing a song and the lyrics weren’t working. Several times Dr. Mussallem advised them to stop worrying and let it be. The boys were the Beatles and “Let It Be” is history.

New Publication

Armies of Peace: Canada and the UNRRA Years

Susan Armstrong-Reid and David Murray
University of Toronto Press, 2008
Cloth ISBN 978-0-8020-9321-9

The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was the first international organization to be established after the Second World War, and Canada played a key role in its formation. By recounting the stories of Canadians who served in UNRRA at every level, Armies of Peace offers a more complete understanding of Canada’s role in post-war international aid and highlights the wider contributions made by the nation. Nursing is the focus of several chapters. The book is an invaluable addition to the study of international organisations, Canadian social history and the history of nursing.

Susan Armstrong-Reid is a member of the Allemang Society. She continues to research the life of UNRRA nurse Lyle Creelman.
David Muray is a University Professor Emeritus in the Department of History, the University of Guelph.

Regular price $65:00. Special discounted price: $52:00 with ordered form.
20% discount order form can be obtained from Judy Young. Email:

McGill University Osler Library

David Crawford, Emeritus Librarian, McGill University, along with his colleagues, has created a bibliography of Canadian hospitals and nursing school histories. Available at http;//,htm.

Several hundred published histories have been identified, however, Osler library is interested in obtaining as many more as possible If you are aware of other material contact David at:

Allemang Updated Web Site

The web site has recently been completely renewed, please visit to see the latest activities of the Allemang Centre/Society.  The address is unchanged.

Information sought on Emma Hill

Lena Ruehle of Oakville, ON is doing family research and seeking information on Emma Hill who may have been the first black nurse In Ontario or Canada, or in WW1. If you have any information of interest contact her at


Pritchard, Elizabeth Margaret Grace, peacefully at Bluewater Health, Sarnia on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. Beloved wife of the late Dr. Robert W. Pritchard. Betty was born May 5, 1920. She graduated from the Toronto General Hospital School of Nursing and she proudly served in the Canadian Medical Corp in Europe from 1943-1946. Upon return to Canada she earned her diploma in Public Health from the University of Toronto. She worked in Public Health in Sarnia with the Lambton County Health Unit and the Rotary Children’s Centre while raising her family. Betty was a devoted and active member of
Laurel-Lea St. Matthew’s Church, whose congregational support and encouragement were a source of much comfort.
(Excerpted from the Globe and Mail, May 3, 2008).

Osburn, Muriel Sinclair, passed away on April 10, 2008 at the age of 92 years. She was born in Toronto on April 3rd, 1916. She attended Branksome Hall and spent her summers at Algonquin Park. Muriel always wanted to be a nurse, she enrolled in the nursing program at the Hospital for Sick Children and graduated with honours.  In 1943, Muriel enlisted with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. She was posted overseas at No. 24 Canadian General Hospital in Surrey, England. One of her patients was Major Fred Tilson who lost both legs in action and he requested Muriel accompany him in his wheelchair to Buckingham Palace when King George V awarded him the Victoria Cross.

In 1945, Muriel volunteered to join the Canadian Army of Occupation in Germany as a nursing sister and was stationed near Oldenburg. It was here that she met William Osburn who was also serving with the Canadian Army. When discharged in 1946, they returned to Canada and were married in Toronto on June 14, 1946.  They resided in West Vancouver and later Salt Spring Island. Latterly she was a resident of Lady Minto Hospital. Muriel always enjoyed nursing and was on the staff of Greenwoods Care Facility when it first opened. Upon retirement she volunteered with the Thrift Shop and Seniors for Seniors and enjoyed evenings at the local legion.
(Excerpted from the Globe and Mail, April 15, 2008).

Quail “Bunny” Margery (nee Cambon) passed away on Easter Friday at Sunnybrook Veterans Hospital. She was born in Quebec City February 15, 1918, daughter of an army musician. She was among the first Canadian women soldiers to cross the Atlantic in 1939. As a nursing sister, she was chosen by Dorothy Macham (future president of Women’s College Hospital) to join the first plastic surgery unit in Basingstoke, England. Bunny met her future husband John Quail, who was an injured soldier on her hospital ward. They were married by her uncle Reverend John Duffield in St. Stephen’s Church in Twickenham, England. Bunny was a model of professionalism as a nurse, latterly at Oakville Trafalgar Hospital in Oakville. She was eventually persuaded to retire in her 68th year. Bunny and John had a great love of family and friends; their dinner table was seldom empty of guests.
(Excerpted from the Toronto Star, March 25, 2008. Also see Obituaries, the Globe and Mail, March 29, 2008).

History of Nursing Writing Prize

The Allemang Centre is offering a prize of $500 for the best essay in the history of nursing written by a student in the year September 2007 through August 2008.

Criteria for submissions:
1. The paper may deal with any topic in the history of nursing in any period and in any country.
2. Papers should be a minimum of 8 pages, and a maximum of 25 pages in length including footnotes.
3. Both undergraduate and graduate students may submit.
4. The student must be enrolled in a university or community college in Ontario. Students from any faculty, including nursing, social science, humanities and science, are invited to apply.

The deadline for submission is August 30, 2008. The prize will be awarded at the 2008 AGM.

Papers may be submitted either by e-mail or in hard copy. Electronic copies should be in Microsoft Word and include academic affiliation, address, telephone and fax numbers. Students submitting in hard copy should send three copies. The first copy should have the name, academic affiliation, address, telephone, fax and e-mail. The remaining two copies should have no identification.

Please send papers to:
Lynn Kirkwood
570 McCann Road
Portland, ON
K0S 1V0

Membership Renewal

Be sure to renew your MEMBERSHIP for 2008. We rely on member fees to continue the work of the Centre and further the goals to retain nursing history.

Editor Newsletter

Dorothy Wylie. Please contact her regarding news items, short articles, announcements, etc.
All contributions are welcome.
223-602 Melita Crescent
Toronto, ON
M6G 3Z5


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