Polls suggest the concept is much in need.
Twenty years ago a poll was taken of equivalent historic points for both the Americans and the Canadians. Our southern friends passed with some 63% getting answers right. But in Canada the polls showed only 39% getting things right.
A Canadian poll in 2008 produced the results that 90% of respondents claimed learning more in school about American history, than their own Canadian history. Six years later another poll produced the shameful result that only 4% of respondents knew of Canadian involvement in the South African War of 1899-1902.
More recently, an IPSO's Reid poll showed that 55% of Canadians failed the poll on Canadian women's history two years ago. Yet at about the same time another poll revealed that over a third of respondents to another poll agreed with knowing someone who had served overseas in the last 20 years. Many of those serving were women.
The last blog in this space brought you information most never knew as we were certainly never taught it in school. That being the story of how Canadian Calixa Lavallee, writer of the music for our nation Anthem, had served and was wounded in the US Civil War.
Today I will briefly mention a few of the Canadian women who served in the US military a decade and more BEFORE the Great War.
I'll start with the Spanish American War. It started with the explosion of the USS Maine in the Havana harbour. While 94 survived, and astounding 261 did not. (Searching this site will reveal a most interesting Canadian connection to it's masthead.)
It was because of the experiences the nurses brought forth in the US Civil War that the governments of the day became more and more aware of the fact that nurses were an incredible aid to the war efforts. Both Canadian and American nursing groups pressured the US government into allowing trained nurses to serve in this war.
In fact, researching again at this site will produce some very interesting facts about famed Annie Oakley and how she offered to supply a company of some 50 female sharpshooters, complete with their own weapons and ammunition for the war effort in Cuba. But President McKinley declined the offer. The earlier blog on this subject tells of the origin on the very term sharpshooter and that Annie's name was in fact NOT Oakley.
Soon the federal government agreed with the use of nurses in the military and by war's end in Cuba, some 250 had donned the uniform and earned their $30 a day.
And one of these nurses was Elizabeth Winchester Russell, born at Hamilton Ontario. The family was well known and her father's success as a doctor no doubt had an influence on her choice of careers. About a dozen days before her 19th birthday she, then being trained as a nurse, signed up with the US forces in 1898. She was immediately assigned to the USAHS (US Army Hospital Ship)..."Relief."
The hospital ship was the first of its kind, being built from the start as a hospital ship. It carried state of the art equipment of the day, had 500 beds, and a compliment of 74. Six of these were nurses. Their day to day operations were based out of Siboney during the Siege of Santiago, oft also mentioned in previous blogs, and no doubt during numerous trips back to the US with the patients being brought home from the war front.
Elizabeth Russell served with Esther Voorhees Hasson who, a decade later would be named the US Navy's Superintendent of their nurses corps. The second Superintendent was Chatham NB born Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, who was the first of only 4 women in the US Navy to be awarded the Navy Cross, just one medal down from the Medal of Honor. The four were so awarded for their incredible efforts during the terrible epidemic of 2020...oops... I mean 1918. Three of these awards were made posthumously. (much has been written about her in previous blogs here, including notation that a war ship was named in her honor in 1944 and a 2nd is under construction right now.
Another one of the Relief nurses was Ferebe E Guion (later Mrs J Parks.) It is most difficulty locating the names of the other nurses, but I believe they may have been Lucy Rose Hevron, Amanda Armistead Ludlow and Ashby Sharp. I believe the terms for all were for 1 year.
Elizabeth Russell would go on to serve during the Philippine War, and not having enough service she would be aboard the Sardinian on 30 October 1899 when it sailed from Quebec to Capetown South Africa for service in the Boer War. With her were Annie Affleck from Ontario, Sarah Forbes from Nova Scotia and Georgina Pope from PEI, as the Head Nurse.
The four nurses were joined by one male Medical officer, and about 1,050 infantry officers and men.
Hope you will join me on July 21.