Celebrating the legacy of women at VON: a book excerpt

Author Dr. Barbara Keddy with her new book

On March 8th each year, people around the world recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day. It’s a day to highlight women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements while working to protect women’s rights.

It’s a particularly meaningful day at VON, because our organization was founded by strong, compassionate women who were determined to ensure that vital health care was available, affordable and accessible to everyone in Canada. 

Our founders recognized the need for mothers and babies to get better care, and we were among the first in Canada to offer prenatal education, well-baby clinics, school health services, visiting nurses and coordinated home care programs. (Be sure to visit this link to read more about the remarkable women who founded VON.)

Canadian author Barbara Keddy, RN (ret), PhD, is generously donating the royalties from her new book, “Nightingale’s Vision: Nurses’ Voices from the 1920s and 1930s,” to VON. The book is based on oral histories she recorded from 40 nurses, many of whom worked with VON. 

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Keddy’s book, highlighting the important work done historically by VON nurses to protect women’s health:

“When I was in training it was optional whether or not you wanted to take a month of VON, so I did.” —Pearl Mitchell
This was a good move on her part for attaining a job after graduation despite not taking the public health course. After graduation, Pearl was offered some time working with the VON in the District of Glace Bay. As a new graduate, she had certainly helped mothers deliver their babies in a hospital, but not in their homes alone, so when she was asked to go to sit for an hour with an expectant mother until the nurse and doctor arrived, she did so. At the home, she found water boiling, bed made as per VON standards with paper and cotton, and a pie plate which was already boiled and ready to receive the placenta. The mother was ready to deliver. The doctor arrived after the baby, and she turned to him and said: “You had a nerve leaving me here all alone.” The doctor patted her on the back, told her she did fine and then told her to finish up. Pearl said it was one experience she would never forget. Many, many years later she met the woman, whom she had not seen since, walking along the street. The woman reminded her she had been the young nurse: “You and I – we were all alone and you had just graduated.”

VON is a registered charity, and proceeds from the book will help to boost important initiatives that bring more people in Nova Scotia the supports they need.

Find the book here:
New World Publishing
*Excerpt used with permission from New World Publishing (Canada)