Black History Month: Bernice Redmon

First Black nurse to practise in public health.

Bernice Redmon was born in Toronto, Ontario, but was not allowed to become a nurse there, or anywhere in Canada. Black students were not allowed to enroll in Canadian nursing programs until the late 1940s, so Redmon had to leave the country to get her education. She graduated with a nursing diploma from St. Phillip Hospital Medical College in Virginia, U.S.A. in 1945, and returned home to Canada that same year.


Upon returning, she became the first Black nurse to practice in public health when she secured a position in the Nova Scotia Department of Health. On top of that, she was appointed to the Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada—the first Black woman to do so. Thanks to her barrier breaking career and the work of organizations and advocates for the rights of Black Canadians, Black women began to be trained and employed in Ontario hospitals in the late 1940s and 1950s. In 1948, just a few years after Redmon came back to Canada with her diploma, Ruth Bailey and Gwennyth Barton earned their nursing diplomas from a Canadian school, becoming the first Black women to do so.

Shaelyn Ryan <br>(Collections Technician/Assistant 2022)
Shaelyn Ryan
(Collections Technician/Assistant 2022)

Shaelyn Ryan is a recent graduate of Queen’s University, having completed her Bachelor’s degree in History in 2021, and is returning to Queen’s in the fall to pursue a Master’s degree in History. Either as a Summer Student or Work-Study Student through Queen’s University, Shaelyn has helped catalogue and research many of the museum’s collection of artefacts as a Collections Technician (since 2018). 

2 thoughts on “Black History Month: Bernice Redmon

  1. Black History Month is all about focusing on all of our achievements and contributions that are generally pushed into the background; to be used where necessary as educating tools to primarily those who would dismiss the black population as being invisible and unworthy of recognition; as well as to our own youth that their places in today’s society was earned the hard way, and should not be taken for granted nor should we hide from supporting the struggle.

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