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remembering World War Two’s women in white caps sister, nurse

by Lucie Pépin | May 6, 2005

The following is a translation of a statement made by the Honourable Lucie Pépin in the Senate May 5, 2005, as recorded in Hansard.

Honourable senators, I would like to join with my colleagues to pay tribute to the over 4,000 nursing sisters who served in the Second World War.

During the course of this war, these heroines, aged between 24 and 26, served their country with steadfast courage. These brave women, commissioned officers, contributed in their own way to the liberation of Europe. Following training in Canada, many of them braved the German submarine fleet, which was plying the Atlantic, to find themselves in the battlefields of Dieppe, Sicily, the Italian peninsula, North Africa, Normandy, Belgium and the Netherlands. Working as well in the marines, the army and the air force, nursing sisters cared for wounded soldiers and comforted them.

The medical units to which they were attached were often located in evacuation stations right near the front, where they risked being killed at any time. These nurses participated as well in air-sea rescue missions and worked in hospital units as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians and visiting nurses. They were on board ship, on hospital trains and on flights carrying the wounded to their destination throughout Canada.

They became true angels of mercy. Veterans never forgot these women in their distinctive uniforms and white caps, whom they called “sister” or “nurse.”

Following their victory in Europe on May 8, 1945, the medical units were disbanded, and a number of nurses remained in Europe to look after the military and civilian prisoners of war freed from the camps.

I pay tribute as well to the 50,000 women who worked during the Second World War. Canadian forces successes in military campaigns are in large part due to the work done by these women, at home and abroad. I wanted to include the contribution of all these women in the tributes we are today paying to our valiant veterans, who continue to fill us with pride 60 years on.

From 1966 to 1971, Senator Pépin was head nurse at the Family Planning Clinic – Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Notre-Dame Hospital and Faculty of Medicine (University of Montréal) – one of the first out-patient birth control clinic in Canada.

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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