History of Nursing in Pacific Canada

[Letters, Ethel Johns to Eileen C. Flanagan, 1958 - 1967] Johns, Ethel 1967

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 January 8, 1959
Dear E. C. F. :
It was good of you to send me "How
How, England?". There is a nostalgic charm about it
as well as flashes of real social insight and I have
greatly enjoyed reading it — especially the Welfare
State and the Talking Shop. What an extraordinary ~\
(a^d  -f ***** /
literary output the man has chalked up. My  book is
now in the hands of a fine old-crusted English Tory
who emits grunts of satisfaction from time to time
while perusing it.
I am very much distressed to hear of Horenafs illness. I should be so grateful to you if you would
send her a little bouqufct of spring flowers along with >riA'V
the enclosed card. It is not so very long ago since
* l\ V
she sent me such a good letter, full of nevm of her
work and her plans for the future. She did seem, at
last, to have attained a measure of the fulfillment she
so richly deserves. Do let me have a word about her
from time to time. I should very much like to write
to her if you think she would like to hear from me.
With all good wishes for the coming year,
affectionately yours,  CJD<?c /3
" Dear ECF
Of course I ought to scold you for sending me  such an
extravagaht Christmas gift and yet I J>
to do it. TheTorch came along just£^
some light on a lecture delivered at r^
(indeed, only) tutelary medical
delight when I heard that he was p
lecture" — the highlight of the Q-*
Kind friends gdve me a ride and
the audience was so large that 1
ferred to the main auditorium,
hanging from the rafters and
'elite crowded the main floor.
I tell you what happened : the
dull as ditchwater. there was
There were even attampts at humot^
damp squibs. You could feel the
canft find it in ray heart
as I was groping for
the UBC by my  chief
deity.  Imagine my
to give "the York
Vancouver Institute.
on arrival we found that
^   affair had been transi
Students were
the intellectual
Dear ECF : how can
whole affair was as
neither head nor tail.
that were no more than(
interest of the audience
It went on and on. The
ebbing away from moment to moment.
remarks one heard on the way out reflected my own sensation of
having been  let down. It seemed as though I had been listening to
a total stranger. Was this the man whom I had heard speak on his
war experience in Hussia in such vivid poignant fashion that
years later I recall what he said as clearly as if I had listened
to it yesterday? HO, IIT WAS HOT OLD AGE EITHER OH HIS PART OB MIKE. It was as though he had turned into somebody else. Just
to prove that all this is not imagination on my part, no fewer
than six members of the Women's University Club called up to
ask me what I had always raved about I   And then, thanks to
ECF, along came fheJTorcfo.    Almost on every page there was a
gleam of light from the past and then it was obscured by the
banal love story, the rapes and the abortions. DOH'T LET HIM
TRY TO WHITE AHY MOEE HOVELS.  When I^think of what he could
give in a different literary form it a^nsot makes me weep with
frustration. There never was a time when the practice of medicine (and of nursing) needed a philosopher of his calibre more
than we need him now. Don't let him waste any more time in
getting on with it.
This is a queer old way to thank you for a generous Christmas gift. Am I going to send it back to you? Ho, I am not.
It isn't everyone who has *he authentic signature of Wilder
Penfield to remind her that she saw him operate and heard him
Coming down from the sublime to the ridiculous, EJ has
also been doing a queer bit of writing. The Lippincott people
evidently thought that Dr. Odiums nursing text might do well in
the American market so they asked EJ "to translate it from
English into American." Apparently she is a psychiatrist of
some renown in England and I hesitated. would she allow a
mere nurse (and a Canadian.at that) to touch so much as a ^ § hyphen, let alone take the l!u" out of honour and labour.
^ g. Well, she did. ,~he even let.ma turn "lady almoners" into
§ g- social ?/orkers not to mention chucking out big chunks of
§:c§- the British Health Services. Quite a job — but rather fun
^ While I was struggling v/ith it I remembered listening to
you and Horena give a first-hand impression of the use of
feather dusters in English hospital wards. Those were the days.
1960 has been a sad year for me. More than one contemporary
has departed. Hard as it is to lose old friends, it is even
harder to reconcile oneself to the loss of those who are younger
~ especially Gertrude Hall. The year of strife at Calgary had
evidently affected a heart that was never too strong. What I so
admired in her ( as in yourself and Horena) was that all three of
you faced up to the problem of nursing service rather than dodging
it after the manner of some of our more academic pundits. Ho one
knows better than I do how much courage it takes to maintain
sound educational standards in the middle of (and in spite of)
the everyday turmoil of the wards. 4519 West Fifteenth Ave.,
Vancouver  8 B.C.
August 1st., 1963
Dear ECF :
I am sending out this letter^like Soah
his dove, not being quite sure where it will fetch up.
I do feel, however, that I must not wait to thank you
for your vivid glimpse of St. James's Park. It gave me
a nostalgic pang but I wouldn't have missed sharing it.
The "something else" in the Hose Hacaulay series came
along safely and is being enjoyed in a leisurely fashion
whenever the sun shines long enough for me to sit out
in my own backyard — which isn't often. The garden itself revels in the rain and at the moment is rather love<
How.about "Honest to God". It is a sincere and courageous statement that comes at the psychological moment.
Ho sooner had I read it a couple of times when it was literally snatched from my hands by a friend whA is
closely in touch with several UBC groups who are having some rare old tussles about it. After that, she
wants to hand it on (indirectly) to members of St,
James Church (very high) who, in her opinion, stand in
need of an antidote for some pretty narrow "churchiness
— to quote the Bishop of Woolwich. Ifhether (as the mm
owner  of the book) I shall be disciplined by one of the
young "Fathers" remains to be seen. The fact that I
resolutely decline to go to confession already has me
in the doghouse. So now look what you have started]
The CBC has just announced that Stephen Ward is at
death's door. Perhaps for him and for all concerned
it would be better for him to pass through it. To me
the worst feature of the whole business is the disgraceful behaviour of the gutter press. I hssxttx  heartily
agree with a cynical acquaintance who says that we need
freedom from the press more than the freedom of it.
And  that goes for the radio, too. The other evening the CBC treated us to a broadcast of the BBC
"That was the Week that Was." I could not have believed that such crass indecency could be tolerated
without a word of protest.  But it has.
She poor old Pearson government seems to stagger
from one grisly predicament to another. Ho sooner
has it sustained a humiliating defeat than it has
to face up to yet another. She latest gaffe is
the move to double its own salaries. This, too,
has been pu'i on ice. To come down to local affairs,
the local Supreme Court has ruled tjiat the BC Electricl
expropriation was illegal (ultra vires?) and at the
moment we householders don't quite know where to
pay our monthly bills. " There seems to be a sort of
Alice in Wonderland atmosphere about the whole
business. I envied you the opportunity to look in at
E.M.'s favourite place of worship. Ahere is a
quality about those English choirs which seems to
exist nowhere else. Wy highlight was the candlelight carols at Westminster Abbey. Quite literally
out of this world. By the way, there was a good
radio performance of Benjamin BrittenS^ Requiem,
broadcast from the Cathedral at Coventry. Anyone
who heard it isn't likely to forget the irony of:
"I am the man you killed, my  friend." Some of the
critics speak harshly of the work as a whole. And so
do the architect's critics of the building but I have
a feeling that both grow out of this tragic age and
that their roots go  deep.
(atcM*    OX4, h^4^ 4519 West Fifteenth Ave.,
Vancouver,, 8      B.C.
October 21, 1963
Dear ECF :
P lease believe that the old girl is not as ungrateful as her long
silence would naturally lead you to suspect. Just as I was beginning to
pull myself together after the long months of anxiety and grief had come to an
end a host of other troubles had to be faced up to.    Isabel Stewart's illness
and death were a great grief to me. We were classmates and old friends and though
we seldom saw eye to eye on the problems of nursing education and practice we agreed
to disagree and amiably chewed each others' ears in spite of all our differences.
JLamglad -that she was spared the long degenerative process that so often follows
cerebral accidents. Strangely enough, although her memory of recent happenings
was badly impaired, she remembered earlier associates quite clearly. Some of her
letters to me during her illness were quite clear and coherent even though she was
not sure of the whereabouts of some of her close relatives.   lay the earth lie
light above her. She had a full and satisfying life and shared it generously with
Then Grace Fairley, who has already had so much to bear, lost the sister who
lived with her and took such good care of her. The sister was killed instantly by
a careless car driver.   And so the "tramautic year" drags on. However, I am
still holding my own and trying to keep my  tail up although it does droop rather
badly at times. As always.reading has been and still is an immense consolation.
And that brings to a word of sincere thanks for your generous gifts in that connection. The Fielding Clarke book is in sharp contrast to that written by  Woolwich and
and yet it struck me as in some ways complementary to it. Of course Clarke had quite a good opportunity to point out the vagueness and contradictions of the Woolwich
thesis and he took full advantagd of it. But so far as I am concerned he did not
really grasp,much less sympathize, with the agonizing struggle that Robinson has
had to make in order to demonstrate what he holds to be the truth. Incidentally, I
was interested to see that the.mention of "Honest to God" at t^e Anglican Congress
was greeted with great applause.
What do you think of the manner in which the affairs of the nation are being conducted in Ottawa? It is really disgraceful that, at this critical juncture, the
various parties cannot even behave themselves on the floor of the House. I heartily
agreed with tlTe HDP member who begged them for God's sake to pull themselves together
even though they were showing themselves incapable of increasing their intelligence
as well as their salaries. The SIU business looks as though it may have some pretty
serious consequences. There is an ominous silence on the Vancouver waterfront but,
contrary to expectations, the longshoremen only sent a handful of representatives
to Ottawa. The vast majority kept on loading wheat in spite of Hal Banks, If Pearson
does implement the Trusteeship the battle will be joined and no mistake.
Do please forgive my seeming neglect and send me a line about what is really going on
in PQ. What is happening at Ste. Justine? What really happened at la Place des Arts?
By the way — our Vancouver Symphony is currehtly on strike. Two performances cancelled
already and possibly the whole season.
Also I would like to hear your impression of the situation in Britain. It was amusing
to hear the Earl of Home described as "an elegant anachronism."  I darkly suspect that
"Hack the Knife" continues to pull the strings, sitting bolt upright in his hospital
bed.   My  hope is that Labour will take over but that there will enough Conservatives
to ensure a strong opposition.
Bless your heart, and as usual, this is yeur  grateful EJ signing off.  4519 West Fifteenth Ave.,
Vancouver, 8  B#C.
Hovember 29
Dear E.C.F. :
You are the travelingsgt person of my acquaintance — no wonder your correspondents can't keep up
with you. Chile to Kiiraun in a single year. The South
American safari must have oeen a humdinger. Your visit to
Kilmun was greatly appreciated — CMF told me so herself.
Had some welcome visitors myself this summer. The
Carringtons came out for a week to various Anglican rites
and ceremonies. My cousin has annonced his retirement
and they expect to go  back to England late next summer.
There is some wild talk that EJ is to pay them a farewell
visit about Easter but the old girl hasn't made up her
mind yet. I'd far rather travel in the early summer but
that would not be convenient for them. On his last ^unday
evening in Vancouver, my cousin preached at t£e Cathedral
and gave the congregation some pointers about the rrovince
of Quebac that made their hair curl.  I never heard him to
such good advantage. Even though they are 3000 miles away
now, I shall miss them when they go home.
Another visitation is in prospect that promises to be exci
ting. The Stewart Clan is having a get-together toward Christmastime and Isabel is coming from HY for the occasion.
There are about twenty-five members of the family within
the Vancouver area and a good time will probably be had by
all. It will be Helen Stewart's Dirthday.  In my  opinion,
she is the flower of the family so^far as brains are concerned — and that is really something.
I get quite a kick out of Just^Plain Hursing — especially,
the fan mail. Letters come from all over the place from the |
most unexpected soisrces. Together with other ofil jobs,
Lippincott prevents the Spanish moss from growing over me.
H elps to pay for the gardenees too. ^ou ought to see the
Christmas roses — the English kind, ^ot on bushes.
I, too, miss Horena and can't quite reconcile myself to
her passing. A few days ago had a nice letter from her cousi:
in Toronto together with some of her books. F^hey will be
Hice to hear of the brother's marriage, "he  is a lucky
woman, flope she is a good CCFer and will bring him back
into the fold. „^
a*  January 8  1964
Dear ECF :
Yes, I freely admit that this is a fine time
to be sending out greetings for the Hew Year but better
late than never. A number of unexpected complications
account for this delay — among them the decision of
the British Columbian branch of the Stewart family to
hold a sort of conclave during the holiday weeks in
which I got rather involved. Isabel was its matriarch
and her passing was a great grief to the whole clan. To
me it was yet another blow during one of the saddest
years in my v/hole life. But I intend to keep toy  flag
flying just as she did, to the very end.
^ow a word about what you call "the little bocks."
They are a continuing source of inspiration and interest ~ especially the H.to G. Debate, which brings the
original work into sharper focus. I was amazed to find
that it had been reviewed so widely and taken so seriouslj
by critics whom one would have thought would never have
noticed it. Your generous gift is now making the rounds
among the United Church clergy — and much good may it
do them. I am glad to have had a look at the Denning
Report.A pretty sickening business, all in all, but if
it leads to some form of control of the gutter press
(as Denning himself seems to suggest) the report will
not have been written in vain. What a blessing that the
job was handled with such detachment and dignity. It
would have been  a grisly affair if a Parliamentary
Committee had been allowed to tackle it. Dear Enemies was quite a joy. Both the authors have been
on radio and television and it looks as though they have
done more than the press and the political commentators
I  to wake BC to a faint realization of what is going on.
jf-J The local press is frankly hostile and "letters to the
||i editor" are sometimes abusive. But the response to Dear
ill Enemies is something else again. At the moment the leader
^ of the Opposjion is cruising about in Howe ^ound on what
ifjlis euphemistically called a fishing expedition. Dirty
|^|.fwork at the crossroads, I'm afraid.
r*f  Well, dear ECF, you have given help and comfort during
jS-2 these sad months. God bless you.
Q/> eWj, 1   -fv : 4519 West Fifteenth Ave.,
Vancouver 8 B.C.
August 25th., 1964
Diar E.C.F. :
This is a fine time to be answering your
very  interesting letter dated June 21st.  It reached
me  just at a time when I needed psychological stimulus
pretty badly. Toward the end of April I had a return
of that detestable hepatitis, complicated this time by
a terrific anemia. This landed me in the VGH for three
weeks or so and later on for a prolonged stay in a
convalescent hospital. low, thank heaven, I am back at
the old stand and with the help of a part-time housekeeper who is a pretty good cook^I am getting a more
respectable bl od count and making up for lost weight.
Well, enough of all that. Let us talk about something
more interesting.  You ask what I think about the doing*
in Ottawa. Well, like the quebecers you mention in your
letter, I would like to be free of the whole kit and
boiling. I have always secretly believed that the best
form of government is a benevolent dictatorship. At
any rate it looks as though the democratic two-party
system has outlived its usefulness. And in more countries than one.
The "quiet revolution" in Quebec has at last climbed
over the Rockies and is causing some consternation in
chauvinistic B.C. I have lent out your copy of "Dear
Enemies" to various friends and have been gratified by
the results. It did provide them with an approach they
hadn't thought of before.
It was good to find Dr. E-enfield's article in the
July Atlantic. The whole series on "Disturbed Americans"
struck me^eally outstanding. Apropos ~ what do you
think of the Goldwater eruption? Disturbed Americans indeed. And they may very well win out in Hovember.
Tell your brother I don't think he ought to
desert the political arena even  though I do agree
that the Anglican clergy need such a good defender.
I did enjoy a visit from the historian of the
He Gill School. As usual, much of the credit should
go to you for seeing that it was written in time to
catch the spirit of the early days.
If you are going to have a winter holiday why
not take off from Vancouver ? What a talk we could hal
have and how much I would like to see you.
Love to you and to Suzanne. I still fondly
remember that creative minority!
(Xo  I*** 4519 West 15th. Ave.
Vancouver, Zone 8 B.C.
September 1st., 1966
Dear ECF :
*irst of all, my apologies for delaying so long in
thanking you for In Caps and Sowns. I can well understand your
sigh of relief --"At last" but it may well be that getting this book
written and published may turn out to be a major contribution not
only to the School but to the history of nursing in Canada as a
whole. H^o one else but yourself could have tackled the job so
well because no one else has the right to say j "All of it I saw
and part of it I was." And now for a look at the book itself.
It strikes me as a well-documented history which gives a clear
and authoritative description of the founding and early development
of the School.  The brief sketches of the pioneers are admirable but leave one wishing that they could have been extended.
The quite extraordinary efforts of the Alumnae Association to
overcome the financial problems involved are well brought out.
I do not know of axiy other instance comparable to it so far as
the nursing profession is concerned.  Such an enterprise could
only have been carried out by a courageous group of dedicated
women. Well, there you were, and nothing could prevent you
from hanging on, come hell or high water!
The format of the book is worthy of the content: simple,
attractive and dignified. The material in the appendices is
very well arranged and comprehensive. It was particularly admired by Margaret Street (now member of faculty at UBC School
of ^rsing) v/ho happened to come to see me shortly after the
book arrived. Indeed, she was so much impressed that she carried
off the book to show to her colleagues as a model which they
might find useful and inspiring.   I forget whether I told you
that the School is collecting material on which its history can be based when the time is ripe. Quite a good start has already
been made.Interest has been stimulated by a recent gift to the
UBC Medical School by some wealthy lumber tycoons (of all people)
of books and documents related to medical history going back to
several priceless items dating from the fifteenth century. And,
last but not least ~ several original letters written by none
other than Florence Hightingale. H eedless to say, the School of
Hursing has its greedyAon these and plots are under way to get hold
of at least a few of them.
To return to the Me Gill for a moment. There is one suggestion
I should like to make,,based on my  Johns Hopkins experience.
It might be worthwhile to retain as many much of theAdocumentary
material as you can find space for. $ifty years from now it may
come in handy to researchers.
Perhaps I should say a word about my  delav writing to you
sooner. The (Isabel) Stewart family held a reunion in Vancouver
during August and EJ in her capacity as an honorary member of the Clan got caught up in the festivities a delightful if
rather exhausting experience. Some of the members of the Clan
I have known for sixty years! I was the only "outsider" at the
various events and had to hold up my end with two other octogenarians who were really family and not honorary! On the
whole I think all three did very well and were the life of the
party to a limited extent. Fortunately for me, several members
of the Clan live in Vancouver and have been a grand stand-by in
various emergencies.
It was grand to have a telephone chat with Suzanne during her
brief visit. I still think that she, like the other two
members of "the creative minority1^ could offer some sensible
advice (and perhaps direction) to La Belle Province and the
rest of Canada. Please speak out loud and clear on my behalf.
it 4519 West 15th. Ave.
Vancouver 8
Vancouver 20th., 1967
Dear ECF :
Please don't scold mej   I know that this is no time to
be answering Christmas greetings — but better late than not at all.
What a colourful Bird of Peace you were kind enough to send me. It
still adorns the mantelpiece at 4519 and holds out hope that 1967
may bring some measure of tranquillity in Canada's centennial year.
Am I right in supposing that la belle Province is not quite as belli-
$K«jfcKgerent?  I have just heard over the radio that Eeal Caouette
is holding oet an olive branch to Mr. Thompson.  And on the national
scale, can we hope that Dief and s
Mike will consent to an armistice8
for the duration?
As you will see from the address
I am still "doing for myself" at
the old stand. There are still<
whispers of "at her age, she^ 1 «
ought to know better" but I tufn
a deaf ear.  Taking a calculated
risk appeals to me far more than
giving up liberty and independence,
So I go on my wilful way!
£> I do wish I were steadier on my legs for if I were I should be temped
to come East and take a look at Expo — a brief lookphat is — World's
Fairs never were my  cup of tea. Wellfeo I remember being dragged round
the Hew York one years ago and hating every minute of it.
What I really should like is to come to ^ontreal and have good talks
with all my old friends — especially those who belonged to the Creative
Minority. Groups like that don't seem to flourish in the Evergreen
Paradise.  (So called by the Junior Chamber of Commerce.)  Perhaps it
is the climate. You may have read or heard that Vancouver had forty
successive days of rainfall recently. Yesterday v*e had 1.81 inches in
24 hours.
The enclosed envelope came to me a few days ago — empty, alas —
but whatever was in it I am grateful for, dear ECF. tw U   9o ru^^^
So, all the best for 1967 — come hell or high water or both.  4519 West 15th. Ave.
Vancouver 8 B.C.
August 24th., 1967
Dear ECF :
It did me a lot of good to listen to your assurance that la belle
Province is not going to opt out of Canada immediately if not sooner,  I
must confess that leather seriously upset after listening to "le Grand
Charles" over the radio. An incendiary diatribe if ever there was one.
What a relief it was to hear the truly courageous speech given by Mayor
Drapeau! It made a distincj impression in Vancouver, I can tell you. Some
of my own friends who previously neither understood nor sympathized with
the French Canadian point of view were bowled over by it. I am circulating
the statistical clipping you sent me for their further enlightenment.<\ The very day that you called me up two good friends had spent the afternoon describing their visit to Expo. They had been overwhelmed by the
experience — the beauty of the setting, the grandeur of the whole concept, the noble architecture, the imaginative display -*- above all, perhaps, by the courtesy shown on every side. It did my  heart good to listen to them. They were not surprized when I told them that YOU had seen
it twenty-five times!
I am sorry to have delayed writing to thank you for "The load Past
Altamont.." Gabrielle Eoy at her cest. Lake Winnipeg and its beaches
hold many happy memories for me. To pick up this book is like drinking a
cup of cold clear water on a very hot day.  Thank you so much.
I am still holding out in my funny little house in spite of continued
well-meant advice to the contrary. "At your age — etc. ect. ect." I
must admit that I find it more difficult to get about. %e spirit is
willing but THE LSGS are weak, '   However I thoroughly enjoy doddling
about with the housework an$ the untidy back garden is a joy. I still
have my  good helper who comes up twice a week and sets the house to rights.
What do you think about this strange and terrible world in which we
live and have our being?  What do you think of the men who aspire to
leadership in our own country? Ten of them are contesting with one another for the right to do so. Hot one of them much more than mediocre.
Just as I was ready to burst into tears, the teen-ager from next door
arrived with a gift of luscious corn on the cob. He has watered my lawn
all through this long hot summer for a modest sum. He plays excellent
hockey in winter. H^e is doing well at school and is going to specialize
in electronics when he goes to University. When I look at him I forget
the scruffy hippies who infest a street not very far away.  Perhaps we
shall.vthrough safely after all. VdVNVD lHSIHAdOO      *»*-
C-^ei NH68 l£vu*'
idVHD xsnu
The ABNPQ has certainly chosen the right historian.
All of it you saw and part of it you were and indeed still
are. So go to it and good luck to you.
As ever affectionately


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