KAWARTHA LAKES-Kawartha Lakes Nursing Sisters Alma Finnie and Oda Weldon were among the very first nurses to cast their ballots in a federal election, 100 years ago this month. Alma Finnie briefly attended Lindsay Collegiate Institute, and Oda Weldon was a native of Oakwood, Ontario. This and other milestones will be celebrated in a new exhibit called “Their Votes Counted” that is coming to Ross Memorial Hospital.
During the First World War, some 2,504 women volunteered to serve overseas with the Canadian Army Medical Corps as Nursing Sisters. Not only were the Canadian Nursing Sisters the only nurses of the Allied forces to hold the rank of officers, but because of the difference in time zones they were also the first women in Canadian history to vote in a federal election ‒ exactly one hundred years ago in December, 1917, while stationed at the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, England
They were among the over two-dozen women from this community who served as nurses during the First World War, a number of whom were trained at the Ross Memorial Hospital. Those graduating from the hospital’s rigorous three-year training program before serving overseas included Laura Curry, Winnifred Hardy, Matilda Mann, Katherine McKinnon, and Olive Williamson.
Officials at the Ross Memorial Hospital say the First World War was a significant catalyst for not only the professionalization of nursing but also for the advancement of female participation within politics. Canadian women returned from war expecting the same rights in peacetime as they had been granted in wartime.
Their Votes Counted ‒ a fully-bilingual travelling exhibition developed by the Victoria County Historical Society in partnership with the Canadian Nurses’ Association and made possible through generous funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage ‒ seeks to commemorate this significant milestone in Canadian history.
“It’s an honour to be able to host this special exhibition and help raise awareness of the profound impact these local women made on our country,” said Anne Overhoff, Vice President Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer at RMH.
“As a nurse, I’m proud to see that their role in history is being recognized.”
The exhibit includes an interactive voting station where visitors can find out if they would have been permitted to vote back in 1917. If so, they can cast a ballot.
The exhibition will be available for viewing in the upper lobby of the Ross Memorial Hospital from Monday, December 4th to Friday, December 29th. A special event will take place at the exhibition on December 12th at 2:00pm to highlight the local nurses’ stories and their experiences during WWI.