Subfonds - Ruth McIllrath

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Ruth McIllrath

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10 cm of textual records
42 photographs
1 scrapbook ; 3 photographs

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Biographical history

Ruth McIlrath (nee Littlejohn) was born June 2, 1913 on a farm in Arcola, Saskatchewan. She loved horses, and ribbons she won for her Shetland ponies were still in her possession seventy years later. After the family lost their farm in the Depression, the Littlejohns moved to Winnipeg, where Ruth attended the nursing program at Winnipeg General Hospital, graduating in 1936.

Her attempts to enlist after the outbreak of WW II were initially unsuccessful, as her position at the hospital had been frozen, so she moved to take a job at Vancouver General Hospital. Here she successfully enlisted with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps on June 1, 1942, and after a posting to Vernon was recruited to serve aboard hospital ship no. 46, the Lady Nelson, Canada’s first hospital ship, which survived a major explosion at Algiers. She was appointed lieutenant November 5, 1943 and transferred from the ship in December 1943 to be assigned to Nanaimo Military Hospital until June 1944. After D-Day she served with No. 1 Canadian General Hospital at Nijmegen, Holland. She married Tom McIlrath in 1951.

Her experiences in the war shaped much of the remainder of Ruth McIlrath’s life. From 1947 to 1976, she worked at Shaughnessy Hospital, becoming Director in 1961. She became president of the Nursing Sisters’ Association and on the board of the Veterans Memorial Housing Society. In her work with veterans she modeled her life on that of Florence Nightingale. While retiring in 1976, she remained active with a number of organizations, including as a nurse consultant on the DVA pilot project for the Veterans Independence Program, the Veterans Memorial Manor Society and the George Derby Long Term Society. She received the Canada 125 Anniversary Commemorative Medal in 1992. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1988 and died in 2001.

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Subfonds includes records related to McIlraith’s personal life and career. Many document her experiences as a nursing sister in World War II; much of her later life as a nurse and later Director of Shaughnessy Hospital was also dedicated to work with veterans. A number of articles discuss her activities and contributions, especially during WW II. Photographs, mostly obtained from official sources, provide a visual record of life as a hospital nurse aboard the Lady Nelson.

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General note

Includes the following photographs: RBSC-ARC-1831-PH-1284 to 1313, PH-1411 to 1419.

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RBSC-ARC-1831-PH-1320a-d are postcards, were previously assigned PH numbers.

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