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Nurse Overseas

Edith Anderson left her job as an elementary school nurse to join the U.S. Medical Corps in 1917. Overseas, she tended sick and wounded soldiers in an American military hospital in France. (Helen Moses)

Indigenous women also made their share of sacrifices during the war. One example is Edith Anderson Monture, a nurse who served overseas at an American hospital base.

The youngest of eight children, Edith Anderson was born in 1890 on the Six Nations Grand River Reserve. As a young woman, she was determined to become a nurse, but found few opportunities to train in Canada. She therefore studied at the New Rochelle School of Nursing in New York State and, after becoming a registered nurse in 1914, worked at an American elementary school.

In 1917, 27-year-old Anderson and 19 other nurses, 14 of whom were also Canadian, joined the U.S. Medical Corps. Within months, they were in Vittel, France, at Buffalo Base Hospital 23, formerly a resort hotel. Miss Anderson spent most of her time at the hospital, treating soldiers who had been shot or gassed. Occasionally, she was sent to other medical centres to help, giving her an opportunity to see more of the country. She sometimes saw more than she cared to.

In 1983, at the age of 93, the Veteran nurse was interviewed by a reporter from her local newspaper, The Grand River Sachem. Bright and forthcoming, she shared the following memories:49

We would walk right over where there had been fighting. It was an awful sight—buildings in rubble, trees burnt, spent shells all over the place, whole towns blown up.

Her recollections of a 20-year-old American patient at Hospital 23 were particularly strong:

Edith Anderson (Helen Moses)

He'd been shot in the neck, but he was getting along fine. Then one night I was on duty and he began hemorrhaging quite badly. We did have orderlies, but they were never to be found, and it happened that a boy who brought bread for the Americans was the one who helped me do the running around.

We finally managed to stop the bleeding and settled the boy down. The next night he was real good, but then he hemorrhaged again the next. The night after that he died.

It was quite a shock to all of us because we were confident he was going to be all right. I got his mother's address in the States and wrote her telling her I was with her son when he passed away.

After the war, Anderson returned to the Six Nations Reserve. Here she was contacted by the American boy's parents, who invited her to visit them in Iowa. She did. Eventually, the young man's parents visited Vittel, and, on the return trip, exchanged a visit with Anderson at her home.

Edith Anderson married Claybran Monture in 1919 and subsequently raised four children. She continued nursing, working on a casual basis at a hospital on the reserve until 1955.

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