Fonds UBCA-ARC-1004 - Ethel Johns fonds

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Ethel Johns fonds

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75.5 cm of textual records
10 photographs 25.5 x 20.5 cm or smaller.
1 album

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Biographical history

Ethel Johns, the first director of the School of Nursing at UBC, was born in England in 1879. She received her early education at Howell's School, Denbigh, North Wales. She spent her adolescent years with her parents and two brothers on the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, Ontario, where her father was the teacher. In 1895, Ethel Johns helped her mother with teaching duties in the Wabigoon School following her father's death. Cora Hind visited, by chance, shortly after Mr. Johns' death. She became interested in Ethel and helped facilitate her admission, in 1899, to the Winnipeg General Hospital Training School for Nurses. Following her graduation in 1902, Johns engaged in private duty nursing for a short time in Winnipeg. First, she spent a brief period relieving for the superintendent of a small hospital in Prince Albert. Next, she worked for one year as night supervisor of St. Luke's Hospital, St. Paul, Minnesota. She returned to the Winnipeg General Hospital in 1905. She worked in turn as a teacher, head nurse, and nurse in charge of the x-ray department, radiology then being in its infancy. In 1911, Johns was appointed superintendent of the McKellar General Hospital in Fort William, which she relinquished in 1913 due to her mother's illness, who had moved to California. In 1914, she went to Teachers College, Columbia University, to study the basic sciences, principles of public health, teaching methods, and nursing school administration. She returned to Canada in 1915 to accept the position of superintendent of The Children's Hospital of Winnipeg.
In 1919, Johns was appointed to the dual position of director of nursing service and education of the Vancouver General Hospital and coordinator of the newly established programme in Nursing at the University of British Columbia. Under her guidance, the five-year programme leading to the Bachelor of Applied Science (Nursing) degree was established successfully. The Rockefeller Foundation, in 1925, invited Ethel Johns to become a member of the European field staff, to serve in an advisory capacity in a programme to develop schools of nursing to prepare young women who wished to enter the public health field. Before leaving for Europe, Miss Johns carried out a particular assignment for the Foundation: a survey of nursing education for Black women in the United States. Upon completing this task, she became a field director of the Foundation's nursing programme in Europe. She assisted in developing nursing schools connected with universities at Debrecen, Hungary and Cluj, Romania. Upon her return to the United States in 1929, Johns served as Director of Studies for the Committee on Nursing Organization of the New York Hospital - Cornell Medical College Association Project. She was later appointed nurse associate to the Committee on the Grading of Nursing Schools. She collaborated with Blanch Pfefferkorn in writing An Activity Analysis of Nursing, a report on one aspect of the Committee's work. Johns returned to Canada in 1933 to become the editor and business manager of The Canadian Nurse, which she held until her retirement in 1944. The Canadian Nurses' Association recognized Ethel Johns' distinguished contribution to nursing by awarding her, in 1940, the Mary Agnes Snively Memorial Medal and granting her, in 1958, an honorary life membership in the Association. Mount Allison University, in 1948, conferred upon Ethel Johns the degree, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Ethel Johns's retirement was mainly spent in Vancouver. During this period, she collaborated with Blanche Pfefferkorn in writing a history of the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing. Ethel Johns was the author of the 1867-1907 section of the History. She researched for this period primarily at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Still, she also gathered some data in New York, where she had access to the papers of Mary Adelaide Nutting with the permission of the executor, Isabel Maitland Stewart. During her retirement, Miss Johns also edited and composed for the J.B. Lippincott Company a series of pamphlets entitled Just Plain Nursing. She also wrote a history of the Winnipeg General Hospital School of Nursing. Johns died in Vancouver on September 2, 1968.

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Scope and content

Fonds includes correspondence, reports, minutes, notes, photographs, drafts of Johns' unfinished autobiography and related papers, and manuscripts of a considerable number of her articles and speeches the majority of which were published. Among the letters here included are those which Johns wrote to Eileen C. Flanagan during the period 1949-1967, and which the latter has donated.

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Further information about the life and writings of Ethel Johns is contained in the research files of Margaret Street (Vancouver), whose biography of Ethel Johns was published in December 1973 by the University of Toronto Press under the title, Watchfires on the Mountains; The Life and Writings of Ethel Johns.

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A large part of this material is related to the research for and writing of the History of the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing.

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Please be aware that researchers will encounter terms that are no longer acceptable. In instances where these terms are used in the original titles, they have not been changed.

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