Vancouver History: Sister Frances

Comments 4 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Browsing through the Vancouver Archives this morning I searched for photographed under the category “celebrations”. It was in that pile of digital photographs that I found a photos of Sister Frances of Strathcona receiving a “Good Citizenship Medal” from the City of Vancouver.

1929 – Archives item# CVA 99-1874. Photographer: Stuart Thomson

Sister Frances Redmond was referred to as “Vancouver’s little Florence Nightingale”. She was an Anglican Deaconess at St. James Church and the city’s first public health nurse. She founded one of Vancouver’s earliest hospitals, St. Luke’s Home on the 300 block of East Cordova Street.1

Born in England in 1854, she was wounded in the Boer War and became one of the few women in the world to receive the Victoria Cross.2 She came to Canada with her family and began to study nursing in Winnipeg. After Vancouver’s Great Fire in 1886, Father Clinton of St. James church contacted Sister Frances to ask if she would come to Vancouver. He asked her to help re-build the church and see to the city’s sick and wounded.

Father Clinton and Sister Frances later founded St. Luke’s Home and it became a beacon of benevolence, hope, and care on the east side. Sister Frances didn’t stop there. She then wanted to train nurses and started up the province’s first nursing school. She stepped in to run soup kitchens, help take care of those afflicted by the smallpox epidemic, and helped out wherever she could.

In 1925 St. Luke’s was demolished and a new hospital was built in its place, which became a nursing home. When she received the Good Citizenship Medal in 1929 one journalist wrote: “There are no women in British Columbia braver and more devoted to their calling than Sister Frances. She is a very bright, cheery, charitable lady, and makes hosts of friends where she is known.”3

Sister Frances passed away at Vancouver General in 1932. She had a lasting impact on Vancouver in its early days and today, Frances Street in Strathcona is named after her. 4

1 This is Strathcona
2 Book: Mainstays: Women Who Shaped BC by Cathy Converse
3 Book: Mainstays: Women Who Shaped BC by Cathy Converse
4 Vancouver History by Chuck Davis

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4 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. SandraThursday, December 22nd, 2011 — 4:07pm PST

    The Vancouver Archives are a wonderful place to spend part of the day. Thanks for sharing the great photo you found – Sister Frances must have lived in one of the two houses in the 300 block of E Cordova St, the Sisters of Atonement, and it’s nice to see what she looked like.

    I had no idea Frances St was named after her, so thank you for that bit of information. I’ll be sure to remember her next time I drive up that street.

    Whenever I go to a city’s archives, I always tend to get sidetracked by all the historical stories and images. Thank goodness there’s no limit on the number of times you can visit!

  2. fotoeins | HenryFriday, December 23rd, 2011 — 2:55pm PST

    Rebecca, thanks to your post on Sister Frances, I found your reference to “This Is Strathcona”, and it was great to read about all the people who’ve left their mark in the area I used to call home.

  3. GabrielFriday, November 16th, 2012 — 5:45pm PST

    Thanks Tamara. I love how perfect that tree looks as well. The Wilder Snail is a cozy ltitle cafe with a few shelves of less mainstream groceries. It reminds me of the Mondragon Bookstore & Coffeehouse in Winnipeg. It’s hard to remind me of things in Winnipeg since I’ve only spent about 24 hours there. The coffee was pretty decent too 🙂

  4. Mark Darroch (Jr)Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 — 7:03am PDT

    Thank you for your “Post” of Sister Francis, my father Mark Beach Darroch (Sr.) was actually one of the two boys that Sister Francis adopted, my father has since passed away 2000, my sister had attempted to do some reseach on my father and with the help of the Vancouver library, Bowen Island Histrocial Society we were able to get some information, my dad was never able to secure a “birth certificate” and I’m sure he died a “sad & silent man”, as he never really opened up and shared much about his “youth” althought he spoke “respectfully” of Sister Francis, I will be travelling to Vancover Aug. 1/13 and look forward to doing my own research and maybe a trip to Bowen Island were I understand Sister Francis had a summer residenence
    Thank you
    Mark Darroch (Jr)

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