Wednesday, March 12, 2014

6 Things You Didn't Know About Canadian Military Nurses

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6 Things You Didn't Know About Canadian Military Nurses
By Nanette

Library and Archives Canada PA-002279
1.  Women have been serving in the Canadian military for almost as long as Canada has been a country.  Canada's first military nursing sisters served in the North-West Rebellion of 1885, only eighteen years after Confederation.  They ministered to ill and injured soldiers while wearing ankle-length skirts, petticoats and corsets.  It's hard to imagine less practical clothing for such tough working conditions.

2.  More than 2,800 women stepped up to become military nurses during the First World War, many of them serving in dangerous conditions on board hospital ships and in combat zones with field ambulance units.  They were nicknamed "Bluebirds" because of their bright blue dresses and white veils.

3.  Military nursing sisters, who can be seen in the above photo lining up to cast their ballots in France during World War I, became the first Canadian women to vote at the federal level when they voted in the December 1917 election.

4.  Women again answered the call of duty during World War II.  Approximately 4,500 nurses were attached to all three branches of Canada's military.  More than 3,000 served overseas.  They     wore military uniforms and were addressed as "Ma'am" as they were commissioned officers.  (Canadian nurses were the first in any Allied country to have commissioned officer status.)

5.  Service women were paid 2/3 of the men's rate.  In July 1943, their salary was raised to 80% of men's pay.

6.  More than 5,000 nurses served in the Korean War, providing medical services in combat zones and flying air evacuation missions bringing casualties back to Canada.

The years since the Korean War have brought many social changes.  This is reflected in the Canadian military.  In 2000 the last prohibition against women (serving on submarines) was lifted.  Women make up about 15% of Canada's military and they serve in every capacity, including combat roles.
The Sailor's Woman

There are a number of firsts for Canadian military women including:

Private Heather Erxleben who became the first female Regular Force Infantry soldier in 1989.

Captain Maryse Carmichael who became the first female Snowbird pilot in 2001.

Commander Josee Kurtz who became the first woman to command a major warship, HMCS Halifax, in 2009.

Captain Nichola Goddard who sadly became the first female Canadian Forces member killed during combat duty in 2006.

Each of these dedicated women knocked down barriers to make the path a little smoother for every woman following in their footsteps.

Ladies, I salute you!

About Nanette
The Sailor's Woman
Hi, I’m Nanette. Like most women, I wear many hats. I’m a mom, a teacher, a Canadian Naval Officer’s wife, a blogger at The Sailor’s Woman and a novelist.

I have degrees from the University of British Columbia and the University of Moncton. I began writing as a child and I've published many short stories and essays.

In June my husband left for Afghanistan. Before going overseas he was out of the province for about six weeks training for his adventure. It’s been a long haul and it’s not over. Field lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

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