the following blog post was written by Museum of Health Care Curator Maxime Chouinard
Today, the Museum of Health Care is unveiling its newest onsite exhibition titled Trench Menders: Health Care in the First World War. This exhibition centers on the work of the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the Great War and its accomplishments in the fields of medicine, dentistry, nursing and many others. Although the CAMC was essential to the wellbeing of the soldiers, it is easy to forget that other groups also participated in the effort and often received very little attention after the War. One of those is the Voluntary Aid Detachment or VAD.
Before the mid 19th century, women had a discreet but ever-present role on the battlefield, mostly as camp followers. When women such as Florence Nightingale started to demonstrate the value of military nurses, armies began to slowly, but surely assign them to their medical services.
The Voluntary Aid Detachment arrived at a pivotal time in history. The VAD was organized mainly through the Red Cross and especially in Canada through the Order of St. John. The Detachment offered an opportunity for women to participate more actively in the war effort. While working class women would find employment in the war industries, in the field, or keeping the family business running while the men were away at war, voluntary work was not an option. Upper class women would often choose to help raise funds or fill white collar positions left vacant, However, that was often not enough for many of them who desired a more active role. Continue reading