GUESS WHO?

From her yearbook:

Quotation: "Like Alexander I will reign

and I will reign alone."

Hobby: Tidying up

Ambition: Speed, accuracy and neatness

Favorite expression: "My lor'!"

(Source; Coronet studios)

MISS BLANCHE G. HERMAN, R.N., R.R.C. (1st class), M.I.D.

Blanche G. Herman, a native of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, graduated from the School of Nursing of the Montreal General Hospital in 1925 and from McGill University with a Diploma in Teaching and Administration.

From 1933 to 1955 she was the Superintendent of the Western Division of the Hospital. On leave of absence during WWII, Miss Herman joined the Army Nursing Service in 1940 and in 1941, went overseas as Matron of the 1200 bed No. 14 General Hospital which was located first at Farnborough and later at Horley in England. Posted to the Mediterranean as Principal Matron of the Canadian nurses in that area in 1942, she was on board the S.S. St. Helena when it was torpedoed 2 days out of Gibralter. During her service in Italy she was stationed at Caserta, Perugia and in Rome. For her wartime service Miss Herman was decorated with the Royal Red Cross (first class) and received an MID (mention in dispatches). On her return to Canada she resumed her position at the Western Division.

Miss Herman was apppointed to the position of Associate Director of Nursing in charge of Livingston Hall when the Central and Western divisions of the hospital amalgamated to move to the Cedar Avenue site in 1955. She remained there until her retirement on June 1, 1965.

On June 14, 1965 the Gazette writes .... She says she will really miss student nurses. For the past 10 years Miss Herman has been in charge of Livingston Hall, the student nurses' residence, and so has had contact with the approximate 1500 nurses who have passed through there in that time. "I have just loved this work, really loved every minute of it. It is so amazing to see the girls mature after three years in training" Student nurses today have more self-confidence, are more worldly and more aware than nurse in her day, she says. "They show exceptional qualities, and my life has been enriched by knowing and working with them."

Active in various nursing organizations, Miss Herman held the following offices: President of the Alumnae Association, McGill School for Graduate Nurses (1937-1940) and of the Alumnae Association of the , School of Nursing of the Montreal General Hospital, (1956-1958) ; Chairperson, MGH Alumnae Archives Committee (1957-1964) and in 1962 she was named Honorary President of the Alumnae Association of the School of Nursing of the Montreal General Hospital.

Following her retirement, Miss Herman made her home in Halifax where she died on September 4, 1982.

 

What is this? Where is it?

Photo by Hands Studio, Bank Street, Ottawa

The 13th annual convention of the Canadian Nurses Association was held in Ottawa in August, 1926. This memorial to nursing sisters was unveiled at that time. The following is an excerpt from the 1927 yearbook of the The Montreal General Hospital, School for Nurses.

"Tuesday afternoon (August 24, 1926) there was an the unveiling of the memorial to the nursing sisters who lost their lives in the Great War. Here we can briefly tell the history of the war memorial movement, as outlined by Miss Jean Gunn, Lady Superintendent of the Toronto General Hospital and who was the convenor of that committee. The work began at the annual meeting (CNA) in Vancouver in 1919. A committee was appointed and in 1921 it met in Quebec and then decided to erect a memorial in Ottawa to be placed in the Hall of Fame.

After a great deal of work on the part of various committees, in December 1924, a full sized model was sent to the Prime Minister at Ottawa for his approval.

The raising of the funds was the least of the difficulties. This was accomplished through the independent efforts of some 10,000 Canadian nurses. Miss Gunn stated that although the memorial was to cost $35,000, $37,613 had been raised.

The model selected was designed by the sculptor Mr. G. W. Hill, of Montreal. It is of the finest Italian marble and the work was done in Italy.

The unveiling of this monument, which is the first to be placed in Canada's National Hall of Fame, was one of the most brilliant functions ever seen in Ottawa. The tribute of remembrance to the valiant women was shared alike by representatives of His Excellency the Governor General, the churches, federal, provincial and civic representatives and military officials, within a reserved section on the green in front of the Tower of Victory. Nurses and representatives of women's organizations from all parts of Canada, United States and Great Britain were seated, while half way up the steps the overseas nurses in their uniforms of blue and white took up their position.

Following the singing of "O God! our Help in Ages Past" Major the Rev. G.G.D. Kilpatrick offered the opening prayer and several speakers, among whom were Dame Maud McCarthy* and the Acting Prime Minister, Sir Henry Drayton, spoke a few word, paying tribute to the nursing sisters who lost their lives.

The ceremony was then transferred to the Hall of Fame near the entrance of the Parliamentary Library, where the memorial stands. Dame Margaret McDonald, Matron-in-Chief, Canadian Overseas Nurses, unveiled the monument, while a guard of honor stood at attention and two minutes'silence was observed. The last post was then sounded and the ceremony ended. Scores of floral offerings were laid at the foot of the monument, conveying the tribute of people in many countries"

* Dame Maud McCarthy, Matron-in-Chief of the Territorial Army Nursing Services of Great Britain, and veteran of the South African and World Wars.

 

Guess Who?

1863 - 1952

Class of 1895

Photo by Rice

MISS JENNIE WEBSTER, R.N., O.B.E.

 

From all accounts Miss Webster was a remarkable woman. The articles, newspaper clippings, tributes and poems about her life and work are numerous. Miss Nora Livingston, Dr. Keith Gordon, Edgar Andrew Collard of the Gazette, the Alumnae Association of the School of Nursing and the attending staff were among the many who sang her praises.

Born near Cobourg, Ontario on December 10, 1863, Jennie Webster was the eldest of six children of Thomas and Electra Smith Webster. Before realizing her dream of becoming a nurse Miss Webster was faced with "the firm and unrelenting opposition of her father" and a bout of rheumatic fever in her 17th year. In the fall of 1892 she travelled to Montreal to visit her married sister, made arrangements for an interview with Miss Livingston and was accepted to enter the hospital on December 1, 1892 as a probationer.

As an undergraduate Miss Webster was known to be "fearless, resourceful and dependable". Upon her graduation in March, 1895 she took up the position of Lady Superintendent of the Civic Hospital for infectious diseases on Moreau Street. Here she worked with Dr. A.T. Bazin, Medical Superintendent, Miss Lynch and Miss De Kalb, assistant nurses.

In 1900 Miss Livingston offered her the position of Night Superintendent at the Montreal General Hospital which she accepted and on May 14, 1900 she began an unprecedented 32 years of "unbroken and devoted service" to the hospital.

Andrew Collard describes Miss Webster as a "plain, rather squat, vigorous outspoken little woman, quite ready to cope with any problem." As the Montreal General was located in a rowdy district and well known to the police he continues "when night descended over the city, Miss Webster faced some rough situations. She was never one to lose her nerve, or call for help. She was ready to confront anybody or anything."

It is hard to get a glimpse of Miss Webster beyond the walls of the hospital where "she turned night into day for a period of thirty two years during which she lived and laboured within the same four walls". She appeared to have no outside interests. According to Dr Gordon she attended evening services at Emmanual Congregational church and her life was one of extreme happiness.

Collard writes "In her 32 years as Night Superintendent she came to know class after class of nurses, year after year of internes. She set the nurses an example, and was just one of them, in the tradition of Miss Livingston. But no one ever doubted that she was more severe with the nurses than with the young internes. Those who interned at the Montreal General always remembered 'our Jennie' as a sort of house mother. " Dr. Guy Johnson recalled "in her opinion no interne ever did anything wrong, even if he had to be carried into the hospital in somewhat a comatose condition....."

On May 14, 1925 Miss Webster celebrated her 25th anniversary as Night Superintendent at the Montreal General Hospital. An "At Home" was given in the nurses reception room by members of the Alumnae Association, to which were invited the Board of Management and their wives; the consulting, visiting and resident medical staff and their wives, and the nurses-in-training. In addition to the presentation of a "purse of gold", tributes and letters of congratulations poured in, none more touching than the one from Miss Livingston in an almost illegible handwriting.

Windy, May 13, 1925

My dear Miss Webster,

Many happy returns of the day. It seems but yesterday that we made the final arrangements for your entering on your duties as Night Superintendent - a trust which you have never betrayed. What a record!

Good bye. God bless you. G.E.N. Livingston

 

It would be too lengthy to report on all the various tributes. The 1925 yearbook contains the words of the President of the Alumnae Association, Miss Frances Reed who says....... "We are proud of you Miss Webster; proud that you belong to us, and proud of your contribution towards the reputation of our school and profession and we ask you to accept this gift as a slight token of our love and esteem and of our gratitude for all that you have done, hoping that you may continue in your good work for years to come."

In the years that followed she was plagued with an inflammatory condition of the joints, she threatened on many occasions to resign but to the surprise of everyone in January of 1933 she left for Manitoba to care for two young nephews who had been orphaned. Among the many parting gifts was a portrait commissioned by the attending medical staff. Painted by Alphonse Jongers*, the portrait hangs in Livingston Hall.

Her recognition and honours continued. In 1935 on January 1, Miss Webster was honoured by King George V as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Miss Webster returned to occupy a small suite at the Montreal General Hospital. Collard writes " Chronic, crippling illness brought her back to what had really been her only home. Though now in bed or in a wheelchair she was still a presence, an influence, an example. .... the nurses lavished care upon her. And doctors she had known as internes would drop in to see her and talk about old times. On her 83rd birthday in 1946 over 100 of 'her boys' held a reception in her honor."

Miss Jennie Webster died in 1952 at the Montreal General Hospital on Dorchester Street. The funeral was held at the Westmount Park Emmanual Church. Headlines in the local newspapers included " Miss Webster of the General dies at 88 after active life"; "Miss Jennie Webster, Former MGH Superintendent, Dies, Noted figure in Canadian Nursing Circles Cheerfully Devoted Life to Care of Sick" and "Miss Jennie Webster, O.B.E 1863-1952 A Physician's Tribute (C.L.Roman, M.D.)"

References:

Gordon, J.Keith,B.A.,M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), Miss Webster of the Montreal General Hospital. The Canadian Medical Association Journal, XXVIII, 552-556, 1933

Collard, Edgar Andrew. Of Many Things. The Gazette. January 23, 1971

Archives, School of Nursing, the Montreal General Hospital

* Alphonse Jongers, 1872-1945. Born in France and emigrated to the U.S. in 1897. According to Collard, at the time of the painting in 1933, Jongers lived at the Ritz Carleton Hotel and was a leading portrait painter for Montreal society. He does not appear to have any paintings in Canadian galleries but several are listed for the United States.

 

Home / This 'n That/ History / World War I / Anniversary / World War II

2004 Margaret Suttie Montreal, Q.C., Canada