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Georgina Pope wearing the "Bluebird" military nursing uniform of the Canadian Army Medical Corps
Georgina Pope was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She grew up on a lovely estate with servants and a governess. Imagine everyone's shock when Georgina announced she was going to New York to train as a nurse at Bellevue Hospital Training School, for nurses were considered servants at the time. Bellevue was established by Florence Nightingale, a nursing legend who had revolutionized army medical care. Georgina was destined to follow in Nightingale's footsteps.
In 1899, she was chosen to head a group of nurses in South Africa during the Boer War. The nurses tended to sick or wounded soldiers in base hospitals. These hospitals were often not more than a hut or tent that could move along with the army and the nurses were on constant lookout for snakes and scorpions. Georgina returned to Canada in January 1901 but was sent for a second tour of duty in March 1902. The war ended in June 1902 and she returned home once again. In 1903, Georgina was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal for meritorious and distinguished service, the first Canadian to receive this esteemed honour.
Back in Canada, she became Canada's first nursing matron in 1908, designing and administering training programs for military nurses. The Canadian army was the first in the world to give nurses officer status, equivalent to the rank of lieutenant. The nurses graduating from Georgina's courses profited from her hard work. At age 55, in poor health, Georgina went overseas in 1917 to work near Ypres, one of the bloodiest battlefields of the First World War, where more than one million soldiers were wounded or killed. Georgina returned to Canada in 1918 and died in Charlottetown in 1938.
Georgina Pope in her nursing uniform
No. 7 Canadian General Hospital, Étaples, France, 1917
Imperial Adventure, Personalities: Nursing Sister Georgina Fane Pope (1862-1938). Canadian War Museum.
(accessed February 11, 2005)
Merritt, Susan E. Her Story III: Women from Canada's Past. St. Catharines, Ont.: Vanwell Publishing, 1999.