Hommage à nos fondatrices – Tribute to our founders 2. Cynthia Toman

A Tribute to Dr. Cynthia Toman (RN, BScN, MScN, PhD)

Dr. Sarah Glassford, University of Windsor

[La traduction française est accessibe ici]

Dr. Cynthia Toman began her working life as a Registered Nurse and concluded it as Canada’s pre-eminent historian of military nursing. I had the pleasure of a close association with her over two years near the end of her career (2007-2009), when she supervised my postdoctoral fellowship in affiliation with the University of Ottawa’s Nursing History Research Unit. As a postdoctoral supervisor she modelled many approaches that I subsequently strove to emulate in my dealings with students and younger colleagues in a variety of academic and professional settings. She was generous with her time and energy when it came to offering advice, feedback, and support, and managed to be kind, funny, and sympathetic while also maintaining an appropriately professional distance. (This is no surprise, really, since these are also the qualities of a good nurse!) Cynthia modelled collegiality by treating me with the respect due to a peer (albeit one in training) and taking an interest in my work, while expecting the same in return. She connected me with all kinds of professional development opportunities and encouraged me to say “yes” when chances to publish or give talks came my way, but also encouraged me to maintain a life outside of the academy and to vigilantly patrol its boundaries. I grew from a timid PhD graduate to an increasingly confident junior scholar and university teacher under her upbeat, encouraging brand of mentoring, which was just what I needed at the time. She has remained a supportive colleague and friend ever since.

Dr. Toman’s two monographs, dealing respectively with First World War and Second World War Canadian military nurses, instantly became authoritative go-to resources on those topics. They continue to be invaluable assets to students, scholars, and the wider public seeking to understand both military health care provision and women’s experiences of the two world wars in a Canadian context. The quality of her historical work – not only these monographs but also a host of journal articles and book chapters – is attested to by the awards it has garnered, including the Governor General’s Gold Medal for her PhD dissertation at the University of Ottawa in 2003, the Teresa E. Christy Distinguished Writing Award given by the American Association for the History of Nursing in 2004, and the Canadian Committee on Women’s History’s Hilda B. Neatby Award for best English-language article in 2008. 

Beyond her obvious interest in wartime military nursing, Toman’s historical research interests encompass the nitty-gritty details of nursing practice, nursing workforce issues, and medical technologies as they relate to nursing (including blood transfusion, delegated medical acts, and scientific management and efficiency in nursing contexts). Yet she has been equally intrigued by the ways that society and culture affect the lived experiences of nurses and the evolution of nursing as a profession. The result is a body of work that brings to life not only what it was like to do nursing work in a given place and time, but also what it meant to be a nurse and how “nurse” as a professional identity intersected with other markers of identity such as gender, class, race, and nationality. Reviewers repeatedly employ words such as “painstaking,” “meticulous,” “rigorous,” “complex,” and “diligent” to describe the archival research that undergirds her work, while equally singing the praises of her writing skills, calling her work “nuanced,” “engaging,” “sensitive,” “moving,” and “compelling.” These twin strengths, when added to the truly pioneering and significant nature of her subjects, will ensure that her published work continues to be read, enjoyed, and cited for many years to come.

“Historian” is only one of many hats Toman has worn along the course of her career path. Before becoming a historian and university professor, she worked at various points as a critical care nurse, cardiovascular nurse, community nurse (including time spent nursing in Puerto Rico in affiliation with the US Office of Economic Opportunity), camp nurse, and clinical trial research coordinator. She was also actively involved in nursing research before she turned to history, pursuing interests in patient education, heart failure education and counselling, continuity of care, and activity progression post-Myocardial Infarction. Without question, Toman’s years of front-line nursing have given her special insights into the historical nurses who later became the subjects of her research: she knows firsthand that nursing can be not only rewarding and meaningful but also dirty, exhausting (both emotionally and physically), and frustrating. These experiences clearly shape her portrayals of the military nurses whom contemporary (and subsequent) authors have tended to depict as one-dimensional angels or heroines. Toman’s nurses get angry, get messy, have fun, and break rules. They also work incredibly hard and take pride in their nursing skills.

During her years with the NHRU Toman’s ability to connect personal experience of nursing with the questions posed about historical nursing made her an effective teacher of student nurses and nursing professionals. While keen to encourage anyone with an interest in nursing history, Toman nevertheless had a special affinity for teaching and mentoring new nurse-historians, and devoted significant time and energy to developing nursing history courses and practicum opportunities that would help them develop their historical interest and archival research skills. Her students at the University of Ottawa, where she taught in the School of Nursing and held a cross-appointment in the Department of History, as well as those who came into her orbit through conferences, practicums, and other means, reaped the benefits.

As a teacher and mentor, as a scholarly historian, and as a co-founder and director of the Nursing History Research Unit at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Cynthia Toman raised the bar for both nurse-historians and historians of nursing in Canada. That she did so while remaining a humble, hard-working, genuinely likeable human being with a fun sense of humour is all the more remarkable. I admire her greatly.

Dr. Sarah Glassford is Archivist and Librarian at the Rare Books & Special Collections of the Leddy Library at the University of Windsor. 

Hommage à nos fondatrices – Tribute to our founders. 1. Meryn Stuart

Dr. Meryn Stuart – First Director of the Nursing History Research Unit

By Jayne Elliott and Cynthia Toman

[La traduction française est accessible ici]

To fully-fledged historians of nursing as well as to nurses interested in their history, Meryn Stuart is recognized as a pioneer in the development of nursing history in Canada. Over the course of her academic career of twenty-plus years, she held onto her vision of what an  understanding of nursing history could mean to current issues facing nurses and nursing, as well as to what it could contribute to the history of women, medicine, and healthcare in general.  It was through her advocacy and strong-willed desire that the Nursing History Research Unit came about, and she worked with Associated Medical Services (AMS) to establish it as the first academic unit dedicated to the study of nursing and healthcare in Canada.  In 2008 she was honoured by the Canadian Nurses Association with a Centennial Award that recognized the positive impact of her work on the profession.

Meryn left her career as a public health nurse in the 1980s to undertake her doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania under well-known historian Charles Rosenberg. There, she developed strong friendships with other nurse historians who helped nurture her own interests and later facilitated international linkages among other historians in the same field. Meryn re-joined the faculty of the School of Nursing on her return but also took on the task of Associate Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies from 2001-2003. There she managed its graduate program and honed her skills in feminist collaboration that resulted in several publications with others.

Meryn grounded her early research in what she knew best – a history of public health nursing in early 20th century Ontario.  The articles that came out of her thesis ‒ Ideology and Experience: Public Health Nursing and the Ontario Child Welfare Project, 1920-25 and Shifting Professional Boundaries: Gender Conflict in Public Health, 1920-1925 – remain classics in the field and paved the way for a feminist analysis of nursing work. Other publications followed as she pursued research interests in the history of nursing education and military nursing.

From her position as Associate Professor, Meryn was a forceful, tireless and politically astute advocate for the history of nursing. She was successful in her struggle to have a history option included in the graduate nursing program at U of O. She mentored graduate students indicating an interest in including nursing history in their theses – no easy task as most had not had any training in historical research. She had been a founding member of the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing, and now encouraged students to present their work at annual conferences and to apply for scholarships the association offered. She continued to collaborate generously with other scholars both inside and outside the field of nursing.

Some might say that the stars lined up in order for the Unit to come into existence ‒ and it is true that Bill Seidelman, CEO of AMS at that time, was a huge supporter of nursing history.  But it was Meryn who laid the groundwork, working hard to convince AMS board members of the importance of understanding the history behind current issues affecting nursing.  In her June 2004 presentation to them she effectively demonstrated how knowledge of the history of nursing education contributed to a greater understanding of the issues facing nursing leaders as the nursing curriculum moved into the universities. Meryn recruited Cynthia, one of her graduate students, and together they developed a wide-ranging proposal for the Unit, identifying the four pillars of research, education, publications, and outreach that are still relevant today.  She fought strenuously – and successfully ‒ for a full-time research associate position to support the development and operation of the Unit. She insisted on the university matching the endowment portion of the AMS grant and this wise decision has secured financial stability for the Unit.  Immediately recognizing that bringing Marie-Claude into the Unit would greatly help to bridge the great divide that existed between Anglophone and Francophone historians, she facilitated her entry as a faculty member. In short, the guidance that Meryn provided as the first Director of the Unit has ensured a strong foundation on which current members can continue to build.

The former administrator of the NHRU, Jayne Elliott now holds the position of senior research member and adjunct professor in the Unit.  Her doctoral research investigated the history of the Red Cross outpost hospitals in Ontario, and subsequent research interests focused on the history of rural hospitals and rural and remote nursing. She is currently exploring the experiences of physicians who cared for Canadian troops in Germany during the early Cold War period.

Cynthia Toman is a retired associate professor from the School of Nursing of the University of Ottawa. Her research focused on the history of First and Second World War nurses.

The Early Years of the NHRU – Les premières années de l’URHN

Appel à communications : Colloque annuel de l'Association canadienne pour  l'histoire du Nursing – Centre d'histoire des régulations sociales

Looking Back on the Early Years of the NHRU and Its Founders

Dr. Sarah Glassford, University of Windsor

[La traduction française est accessibe ici]

I arrived at what was then the Associated Medical Services (AMS) Nursing History Research Unit (NHRU) in July 2007 fresh from my PhD defence, as its first (I think?) postdoctoral fellow. At only two years old, the NHRU was still in its infancy at that time. I had only a passing acquaintance with the History of Nursing and History of Medicine scholarly communities, and no nurse training, so I was not sure what to expect from a history cluster in a School of Nursing. Coming from an Arts and Humanities background it was odd to know I would have an office down the hall from rooms where student nurses learned practical skills, in a building attached to a large hospital complex. A member of my doctoral committee and a couple of PhD peers, however, assured me that I would be in very good hands, and my email contact with the unit through the SSHRC application process was friendly and encouraging. The NHRU turned out to be a great little outpost of history in a sea of health sciences, and a wonderfully supportive context in which to make the transition from student to professional.

Upon finally meeting unit co-founders and nurse-historians Dr. Meryn Stuart, Dr. Jayne Elliott, and Dr. Cynthia Toman in the unit’s little pod of offices in the Roger Guindon building (*I’m not sure I could successfully navigate its confusing corridors and stairwells anymore!), my initial impressions were of a diverse set of personalities: blunt, suffer-no-fools Meryn; soft-spoken Cynthia; briskly efficient Jayne. I wasn’t entirely wrong but, as usual, first impressions revealed only a small part of the larger picture. I soon realized this tight-knit trio had honed their effectiveness as a team to the point where they seemed to have their own short-hand in conversation and email. I later learned that this nuanced understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, interests, and approaches had emerged in part through the hard work of establishing a strong nursing history presence at the University of Ottawa and securing funding from AMS and the university to create the NHRU. There must have been occasional tensions or disagreements between the three of them, given that they worked so closely together, but if so these incidents never seemed to interrupt the smooth flow of the unit’s daily life.

By the time I arrived, Meryn, Cynthia, and Jayne were proud of what they had already accomplished in the unit’s first two years and had at least half a dozen projects on the go – but since all three of them were nearing retirement age, they were also thinking ahead to the future of the unit and the legacy they would leave. The addition of Marie-Claude Thifault to the ranks of nurse-historians in the School of Nursing was an important step already taken in this direction, securing both a smooth leadership transition as well as a stronger French-language basis for the bilingual unit. During my two years in the unit I watched Meryn, Cynthia, Jayne, and Marie-Claude focus on attracting graduate students, developing innovative courses and methods of course delivery, securing other postdoctoral fellows, and making connections with scholars in other disciplines at the university whose research revolved around the history of health and health care. All of this was done in addition to their various regular teaching, research, service, and/or administrative responsibilities. Perhaps it was simply a shared sense that the unit had to prove itself in its early days to justify its funding and/or ongoing university support, but I think the high degree of productivity was also a shared personal characteristic of these four scholars. They were people who got things done.

By the time my fellowship ended it was clear to me that the creation of the unit by the three founders was not a move to garner prestige or monopolize scarce resources, but rather the result of a real passion for grounding student nurses and the nursing profession in a sense of the past, while at the same time enriching the study of history by using nursing as a window into the histories of women, labour, health care, and society. The degree to which the NHRU has continued to grow and thrive since the departure of its three founders is therefore, in my opinion, a testament not only to the impressive efforts of their successors, but also to the solid groundwork the founders established. Meryn Stuart, Cynthia Toman, and Jayne Elliott conceived of a Nursing History Research Unit that would benefit not only themselves and their students, but also those who would follow them, and indeed the nursing profession at large – and they did all they could to build it that way.

Dr. Sarah Glassford is Archivist and Librarian at the Rare Books & Special Collections of the Leddy Library at the University of Windsor. 

15 ans de l’Unité – Unit 15th Birthday

Créée en 2005, l’Unité de recherche sur l’histoire du nursing fête cette année ses 15 ans. À cette occasion, nous avons voulu célébrer les femmes qui ont contribué à sa création puis à son développement. Pour ce faire, nous publierons régulièrement, au cours des prochaines semaines, des textes d’hommage à nos fondatrices, Meryn Stuart, Cynthia Toman et Jayne Elliott, rédigés par d’ancien.ne.s membres ou des ami.e.s proches de l’Unité.

Created in 2005, the Nursing History Research Unit is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. On this occasion, we wanted to celebrate the women who contributed to its creation and then to its development. To do this, we will regularly publish, over the next few weeks, tribute texts to our founders, Meryn Stuart, Cynthia Toman and Jayne Elliott, written by former members or close friends of the Unit.

Les « vieux » appellent à l’aide humanitaire

Le 10 novembre prochain, notre directrice Marie-Claude Thifault participera à une table-ronde sur le modèle québécois de prise en charge des personnes âgées.

Après les fous crient au secours (1961)… les vieux appellent à l’aide humanitaire (2020) : des ratées pour le modèle québécois ?

10 Novembre 2020

11:00 – 12:30 HNE

À propos de cet événement

Cette table ronde propose un point de vue interdisciplinaire sur les négligences révélées à l’égard de nos aînés. La pandémie qui a été particulièrement meurtrière dans les CHSLD a provoqué du même souffle un constat et l’émergence de réflexions multiples sur la place qu’occupent les personnes âgées au sein de la société. Des perspectives du point de vue de la psychologie, de la sociologie et de l’histoire seront abordées pour réfléchir ensemble sur les enjeux de société entourant le vieillissement de la population et les structures de soins pour les personnes du quatrième âge.

  • Martine Lagacé : Le narratif de la vulnérabilité en temps de Covid-19 : entre abandon et protection des personnes aînées
  • Martin Meunier : Rapport aux aînés, rapport au passé? La crise des CHSLD comme révélateur de l’état de la société québécoise?
  • Marie-Claude Thifault : En temps de pandémie : la création d’un espace-récit

Participer à la réunion Zoom https://uottawa-ca.zoom.us/j/92720719980?pwd=aEpydnpicWYyZllobDZhbXhnekdhZz09

ID de réunion : 927 2071 9980Code secret : F9hma8Une seule touche sur l’appareil mobile+12042727920,,92720719980#,,,,,,0#,,844244# Canada+14388097799,,92720719980#,,,,,,0#,,844244# Canad

Concours photovoix du Congrès (annulé) de l’ACHN/CAHN meeting’s (cancelled) photovoice contest

Toutes les propositions du concours de photovoix (incluant les deux gagnantes) qui avait été organisé dans le cadre du congrès, malheureusement annulé, de l’Association canadienne pour l’histoire du nursing, peuvent désormais être visionnées ici :

All the propositions made for the photovoice contest (including the two winners), originally organized for the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing annual meeting that was cancelled, can be seen here :

Les archives sensibles

Le CHRS organise une rencontre avec notre membre Isabelle Perreault le mercredi le 11 novembre 2020 à 12h sur Zoom à destination de ses étudiant.e.s.

Sujet : Discussion autour des archives sensibles
Invitée :  Isabelle Perreault, membre régulière au CHRS et professeure au département de criminologie de l’Université d’Ottawa

Cette discussion avec Isabelle portera sur les archives « sensibles ». Depuis près de 20 ans, elle travaille à partir de dossiers psychiatriques, d’enquêtes du coroner et de décisions judiciaires. Cette rencontre sera l’occasion de discuter des enjeux méthodologiques et éthiques lorsqu’on récolte, analyse et diffuse des résultats de recherche à partir de dossiers nominatifs, de traces visuelles et de correspondances personnelles. Bref, à partir de ses projets et de vos projets de recherche respectifs, cette rencontre donnera lieu à des échanges et alimentera des réflexions sur les manières de (re)donner la parole aux personnes qui se sont suicidées, qui ont été psychiatrisées et institutionnalisées ou encore marginalisées et/ou criminalisées.

Si vous êtes intéressé.e par cette activité, communiquez avec petit.kim@uqam.ca pour vous inscrire, elle vous enverra un lien zoom quelques jours avant la rencontre.

La dimension politique des régulations sociales

L’équipe du Centre d’Histoire des Régulations Sociales vient de faire paraitre un ouvrage collectif sur la dimension politique des régulations sociales du XIXe au XXI siècles, intitulé Question sociale et citoyenneté. Notre directrice Marie-Claude Thifault y signe un article sur les malades psychiatriques francophones comme citoyens de « seconde classe ». Les détails de cette partuion sont à découvrir sur le site de l’éditeur.

Infolettre URHN – NRHU Newsletter 2

Nous avons le plaisir de vous transmettre la deuxième infolettre de l’Unité revenant sur les activités et bonnes nouvelles des derniers mois et annonçant quelques-unes des activités à venir de nos membres.

We are very happy to share with you the latest newsletter of our Unit. It takes a look back at our last months activities and presents some of our members’ activities to come.