The Mystery of the 4th Toe on the Left Foot

The list of women from Huron County who served as nursing sisters in the First World War is now up to 50 names!  This list includes women who served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC), American Army Medical Corps, Red Cross, and Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. As more records become available online, we are finding out more about what their lives were like before, during, and after the war.

It can be difficult to find out what happened to a nurse after the war ended for many different reasons. Many women married and changed their name, some moved across the country or the United States, and a lot of records still aren’t available due to privacy legislation. Due to limited resources, it can be very difficult track people down and verify their identity.

One such woman is Mary Agatha Bell, who was born, according to her Attestation Papers, on November 5, 1879 in St. Augustine but lived in Blyth, Ontario. Mary enlisted on April 3, 1917 in London, Ontario, left Canada on May 20, 1917, and arrived in England on May 30, 1917. While overseas, Mary mainly served with the 7th Canadian General Hospital in France. She also did temporary duties with the 6th and 8th Canadian General Hospitals. After the war ended, Mary sailed back to Canada in July 1919 on the S.S. Olympic.

U.S., Border Crossings from Canada to U.S. – Ancestry.ca

It was difficult to track down what happened to Mary Agatha Bell after the war. On October 11, 1925, a birth registration* was issued to a Mary Bridget Bell born on November 5, 1874 in St. Augustine, Ontario. Records show that this Mary Bridget Bell moved to the state of New York on October 22, 1925. A border crossing document from August 1945 states that Mary’s address was 11 Hows Avenue, New Rochelle, New York, where she worked as a registered nurse. The document also states that she is missing the fourth toe on her left foot.

New York, Naturalization Records – Ancestry.ca

This last piece of information was critical in definitively proving that Mary Agatha Bell (born in 1879) is the same person as Mary Bridget Bell (born 1874). According to her service file, Mary starting experiencing problems with her left foot in France, 1918. Notes in her file refer to her problem as a “contracted toe”. The 4th toe on her left foot was eventually amputated when she returned to Toronto in 1919 at St. Andrews Hospital.

It appears that Mary lied about her birth year on her Attestation Paper. This was not uncommon among women enlisting as nursing sisters in WWI. Mary would have been a much more appealing candidate at age 38 than her real age of 43. Why she decided to change her middle name from Agatha to Bridget still remains a mystery…

 

*Birth registrations were often issued to adults who didn’t have birth certificates

Local Girl Leaves for the Front…

Late last autumn, the Huron County Museum was fortunate enough to receive funding from the Federal Government to produce, among other things, two films about Huron County during the First World War.

Maud Stirling was originally from Bayfield.

Maud Stirling was originally from Bayfield. 

 

One film was about Huron County on the Home Front (watch here!) and the other was supposed to be about Maud Stirling, a nurse from Bayfield who was awarded the Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class. While doing background research for the films, I thought it would be interesting to see how many other women from Huron County enlisted as nursing sisters during the war, thinking I would only find a dozen or so more names. As of November 2016, 48 women with ties to Huron County have been identified as WWI nurses, with several other names on the “maybe” list.  More research still needs to be done!

 

The list of names so far:

Mary Agatha Bell

 

Ellie Elizabeth Love

 

Mary Agnes Best

 

Marjorie Kelly

 

Mary Ann Buchanan

 

Clara Evelyn Malloy

 

Martha Verity Carling

 

Mary Mason

 

Olive Maud Coad

 

Jean McGilvray

 

Muriel Gwendoline Colborne

 

Beatrice McNair

 

Lillian Mabel Cudmore

 

Mary Wilson Miller

 

Alma Naomi Dancey

 

Anna Edith Forest Neelin

 

Gertrude Donaldson (Petty)

 

Bertha Broadfoot Robb

 

Mary Edna Dow

 

Barbara Argo Ross

 

Lillian Beatrice Dowdell

 

Katherine Scott

 

Elizabeth Dulmage

 

Ella Dora Sherritt

 

Annie Isabel Elliott

 

Jeanette Simpson

 

Frances M. Evans

 

Emmaline Smillie

 

Annie Mae Ferguson

 

Annie Evelyn Spafford

 

Clara Ferguson

 

Annie Maud Stirling

 

Jean Molyneaux Ferguson

 

Helen Caton Strang

 

Margaret Main Fortune

 

Vera Edith Sotheran

 

Anna Ethel Gardiner

 

Mabel Tom

 

Florence Graham

 

Cora Washington (married name Buchanan)

 

Irene May Handford

 

Annie Whitely (Hennings)

 

Bessie Maud Hanna

 

Ann Webster Wilson

 

Ruth Johnson Hays

 

Harriet Edith Wilson

 

Clara Hood

 

Jessie Wilson

 

Florence Graham, originally from Goderich, she was a nurse in the United States Army.

Florence Graham was originally from Goderich, She was a nurse in the United States Army. She was killed in a car accident in France on May 27, 1919.

I learned that many women enlisted not just with the Canadian Army Medical Corps but also with the American or British Army. Here are just some of the resources I’ve used to help track down the nursing sisters and their stories:

Library and Archives Canada: for digitized personnel records, including Attestation Papers and service files

Great Canadian War Project: for an alphabetical list and nursing sister awards

The UK National Archives: for British Army nurses’ service records (caution – the records aren’t free)

Ancestry.ca: a number of different resources are useful on this site, including Imperial War Gratuities, 1919-1921 and New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919. You need a subscription to access Ancestry or you can visit your local Huron County Library branch for free access!

Digitized Newspapers: Huron County’s newspaper have be one of the most useful resources for tracking down names of nursing sisters

There are many more women and stories to discover and I am looking forward to continuing on with this intriguing research project. Stay tuned for some of my discoveries!

“Curiouser and Curiouser…”

On Saturday, August 22nd The Huron County Museum is transforming into Wonderland for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. In honour of the 150th anniversary of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, Summer Museum Assistant Becca Marshall shares some of her favourite facts about the nonsense-novel and its legacy.VicApt2

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Victorian Apartment, Huron County Museum

 

Have you ever visited the Victorian Apartment at the Huron County Museum? If so, you can probably picture the elaborate dining room set-up and recall the posted list of extensive etiquette required for Victorian tea time. It was social customs and rules such as these that inspired 19th century author Lewis Carroll to parody Victorian life in his fantastical novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Scenes such as The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party were influenced by Carrol’s loathing for the rigid traditions.

Carrol’s subtle digs at the Victorian culture are not the only secrets that this classic holds – so in celebration of Alice’s 150th publishing anniversary here are 14 things you might not know about Alice and the man who imagined her iconic world:

  1. Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dogson (born January 27, 1832 in the Cheshire village of Daresbury, England).
  1. The original title for the novel was Alice’s Adventures Underground. Dodgson then expressed his fears that this title might suggest a book containing ‘instruction about mines’ and then considered other titles such as “Alice among the elves/ goblins, or Alice’s hour/doings/adventures in elf-land/wonderland.” Preferring the final option Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was the final title.
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Portrait of Queen Victoria, Governor’s House, Huron Historic Gaol

3.  An apocryphal anecdote circulated that Queen Victoria was such a tremendous fan of the story, that she proposed that Carroll should dedicate his next book to her, An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Equation—probably not what she would have had in mind. Dodgson denied this story.

4. Carrol’s novels were banned in China in 1931 on the grounds that “animals should not use human language.”

  1. Carroll is credited with inventing the words “chortle” and “galumph” in Through the Looking Glass.

6.  There is unconfirmed evidence that Carroll had a rare neurological disorder called “Todd’s Syndrome” (or suffered from similar migraine-induced symptoms). The disorder causes hallucinations that make visual objects appear to be changing sizes – often prompting the individual to feel as though their body is disproportionate. Psychiatrist John Todd discovered the disorder in 1955 and it was later named “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome” in reference to the theme of Alice and her surrounding objects shrinking and growing in odd ways throughout the book.

ALice

Illustration from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be best classified by the genre “literary nonsense.”
  1. Carroll illustrated the original draft of his manuscript, but hired John Tenniel to do the published version.
  1. Mock Turtle Soup is a real dish that was popular during the Victorian period. The heads, hooves, and brains of calves were used as a cheaper replacement for green turtle soup.
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Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Display, Upper Mezzanine, Huron County Museum

  1. It was young Alice Liddell who inspired the famous novel. During a group boating trip with the Liddels Alice and her two sisters begged Carrol for a story. Happy to oblige Carrol cast Alice as the main character (her sisters Lorina and Edith were ‘Elise and Tillie’ in the Dormouse’s story) and began creating ridiculous adventures for her to go on. Alice enjoyed the story so much that she demanded that Carrol write it down – thus creating the first draft of the book.

11. Why does the Mad Hatter have a 10/16 sign on his hat? Carroll answered this in the abridged “Nursery” Alice for younger        readers, explaining that the Hatter would carry around his hats to sell, and the one he wore was no exception. The 10 and 6        are for “ten shillings and six pence.” This was a rather pricey sum in the Victorian age, alluding to superior quality and style.

12.To answer the Mad Hatter’s famous question “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” we have Carroll’s very own words, from a preface to later editions of the book…

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China Cabinet, Victorian Apartment, Huron County Museum

“Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: ‘Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!’ This, however is merely an afterthought; the Riddle as originally invented, had no answer at all.”  (Note how Carroll spelt “never” instead as a backwards “raven.”)

That’s a wrap, did you know any of these facts? Come join the Huron County Museum August 22nd to learn more and celebrate the 150th publishing anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from 11-4:30. Games, activities, refreshments and desserts await!

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Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Display, Curated by Becca Marshall

Sweet Secrets

By Emily Beliveau, Digital Project Assistant

Cover image from the pamphlet 'Sweets,' from the Huron County Museum Collection, Object Id: 2005.0001.011

Cover image from the pamphlet ‘Sweets,’ from the Huron County Museum Collection, Object Id: 2005.0001.011. Original size: 18 cm x 11.4 cm.

We recently rediscovered this “Sweets” pamphlet while researching cookbooks and recipes for our upcoming exhibit Delicious. At first glance, it appears to be nothing more than a small newsprint booklet of candy recipes. Looking closer, its true purpose becomes clear: it’s a promotional vehicle for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, a herbal remedy marketed to cure all manner of womanly ailments.

Lydia E. Pinkham (1819-1883)  became a successful businesswoman by commercializing a home remedy to treat a variety of female health complaints, such as irregular menstruation, symptoms of menopause, nervous disorders, and childlessness. She started making her concoction in her kitchen in Lynn, Massachusetts, and eventually expanded the business into an international manufacturing enterprise with production centres in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Pages 8 and 9 of 'Sweets' pamphlet, featuring recipes for Crystallized Fruit, Fruit Cream, Cocoa Fude, Peanut Butter Fudge and testimonials regarding the use of Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound and Blood Pills for treating suppressed menstuation.

Pages 8 and 9 of ‘Sweets’ pamphlet, featuring recipes for Crystallized Fruit, Fruit Cream, Cocoa Fudge, Peanut Butter Fudge and testimonials regarding the use of Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound and Blood Pills for treating suppressed menstuation.

Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound came in tablet or liquid form and contained black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), life root (Senecia aureus), unicorn root (Aletris farinosa), pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa), and fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum).  It’s effectiveness has never been medically proven. The liquid form contained 18% alcohol.

Pinkham’s remedies were aggressively marketed, making the Vegetable Compound the most popular among a multitude of other patent medicines. It’s direct woman-to-woman consumer marketing combined with published testimonials from users, led to its phenomenal success. In 1925, its most profitable year, sales of Vegetable Compound grossed $3.8 million.

By the time Pinkham died in 1883, she was a household name and one of the most recognizable women in America due to the ubiquity of her image in newspaper ads and on product packaging. After her death, her  family ran the business until 1968, when it was sold to Cooper Laboratories of Connecticut. Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound is still sold today as a herbal remedy.

Ad for Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound from the St. John Daily Evening News, 17 April 1883.

Ad for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound from the St. John Daily Evening News, 17 April 1883.

 

Further reading and additional resources: 

Biography and more Pinkham Pamphlets from Harvard University Library

Blog post about Lydia E. Pinkham from the Museum of Heath Care

Background information about patent medicine from the Smithsonian

 

You’ve Got Old-School Mail

By Jenna Leifso, Archivist

Heading from the reverse side of a postcard

A Winsch back type postcard imprint

When was the last time you received a postcard in the mail? As more people switch to electronic forms of communication, it can be nice to receive something in the mail that isn’t a bill. Postcards became a popular mode of communication in the 1890s. In Canada, the period from 1901 to 1913 is often referred to as The Golden Age of Postcards. Right now we have a selection of some of our favourites from the collection on display at the Museum.

 

Perhaps you have some postcards in your collection that you want to find out more about. Here are some of the resources we used in our exhibit.

Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City is an informative site that includes a very detailed history of the evolution of postcards and also a very comprehensive guide to postcard publishers from all over the world.

Picture Postcards from the Great War 1914-1918 explores the propaganda behind the cards. Can you image sending a postcard back home about trench lice?

Did you know that prior to the First World War, most postcards were printed in Germany? The Postcard Album has more information about German printed postcards, including the popular “John Winsch”.

For information related to Canadian postcards try the Toronto Postcard Club’s website. Their annual show is being held next month on February 22nd.