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.
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