"Assistant angels": Canadian women as voluntary aid detachment nurses during and after the Great War, 1914-1930.

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Title: "Assistant angels": Canadian women as voluntary aid detachment nurses during and after the Great War, 1914-1930.
Authors: Quiney, Linda J.
Date: 2002
Abstract: This study recovers the history of Canada's Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses, or VADs, from their creation as a reserve of emergency auxiliary nursing assistants in 1914 under the aegis of the St. John Ambulance Association, to their demobilization and resettlement into peacetime civilian life to 1930. Canada's VAD plan was modelled on a British scheme initiated in 1909 in anticipation of war in Europe. Intended to supplement the domestic military medical services, the role of the Canadian VADs evolved with the advent of the war into fulltime nursing assistance. The research for the study is based on archival sources, including diaries, letters and pre-recorded narratives of VADs who served in Canada and overseas, official government documents, and those of the St. John Ambulance and Red Cross in Canada and Britain, who were responsible for the VAD organisation. In addition to manuscript sources of individuals involved in the VAD movement, the published records from contemporary books, memoirs, journals and newspapers were examined. This research permitted the identification of 808 Canadian VADs, out of an estimated 2,000 primarily young, single, middle-class Anglo-Protestant women, who served as nursing assistants, but also as ambulance drivers and support personnel. The study demonstrates the evolution of Canadian VADs as an extension of the nineteenth century voluntarist traditions of the women's movement. Through patriotic and maternalist ideology, VAD service was legitimised as a form of voluntary active service for women, equating to masculine military service. Excluded from Canada's military hospitals overseas, VADs served in military convalescent hospitals at home, and British military hospitals abroad. As volunteers, they challenged the professional aspirations of Canada's qualified graduate nurses, motivating them to seek regulation of the qualifications for nursing practice, and elevating the educational standards. Volunteering as a VAD offered Canadian women a singular opportunity for active war service. Previously overshadowed by British VAD experience, the study of Canada's VADs restores a dynamic organisation to the history of women and women's work, as well as contributing to scholarship in Canadian medical and military history.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/6196
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-11135
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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