This Week in History


Ground Broken for New Nurses' Home

For the week of Monday August 6, 2001

On August 11, 1903, construction began on the nurses' residence at the Kingston General Hospital in Kingston, Ontario. Known today as the Ann Baillie Building, it still symbolizes the gains made by women to make nursing an important health care profession.

Ann Baillie Building

Ann Baillie Building
© KGH Archives / KGH Collection / BE24-1

Until the late 19th century, nursing care in English Canadian Protestant hospitals was provided by domestic servants or former patients. Physicians at Kingston General Hospital (KGH), like their colleagues elsewhere, were anxious to obtain an educated nursing workforce. Following the pioneering example set by British nursing reformer and feminist Florence Nightingale, KGH physicians established a nursing school in 1886. A nursing superintendent was hired to run the three-year training program. She supervised the apprenticing student nurses, who did most of the nursing work in the hospital, and organized formal classes for them. Life was not easy for the early students. KGH students were expected to follow strict rules of behaviour. Forced to live on a hospital ward, they were continually exposed to disease and could seldom escape the work, noise and dirt typical of 19th-century hospitals.

In 1897, the early graduates of the school formed the Nurses' Alumnae Association and started a building fund for a nurses' residence. The result of their efforts was one of the first residences in Canada constructed especially for nurses. Soon similar residences emerged at hospitals across Canada, 'places of their own,' where nurses trained, lived, enjoyed leisure and social activities together and built a profession.

The impressive appearance of the Ann Baillie Building reflects the goal of hospital and nursing leaders to attract respectable young women to nursing. And, with its 22 rooms, including a sitting room and dining room, it was also meant to provide a home-like environment. The building was later renamed for Ann Baillie, Nursing Superintendent from 1924 to 1942. Like most nursing superintendents, she lived there in order to supervise the student nurses.

Graduation class of 1897

Graduation class of 1897
© K.G.H. Nurses' Alumnae / Katherine Crothers

The Ann Baillie Building, now the home of the Museum of Health Care at Kingston, is a national historic site of Canada. Other residences have been commemorated to symbolize nursing as an important health care profession, including the Pavillon Mailloux and Hersey Pavilion in Montréal, Quebec, Begbie Hall in Victoria, British Columbia, and the St. Boniface Hospital Nurses' Residence in St. Boniface, Manitoba.

For more information, please visit the Museum of Health Care at Kingston.

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