The Story of Queen Victoria and Canadian Public Health

Today would have been Queen Victoria’s 203rd birthday! Victoria Day was established as a holiday in the Province of Canada in 1845, and now is celebrated on the last Monday before May 25th every year in her honour. Queen Victoria impacted Canadian health care practices and the history of Kingston in a number of surprising and fascinating ways!

Queen Victoria (1837-1901)

Kingston’s Queen’s University, where KGH and our museum stand, was named after the young queen upon its establishment in 1841. Additionally, the original KGH building served as Canada’s first parliament building from 1841-1844 before Queen Victoria selected Ottawa as Canada’s permanent capital in 1857.

First, the Victorian Order of Nurses was established in the Queen’s name to celebrate her 60 years on the throne. In 1896, the National Council of Women called upon the wife of Canada’s Governor General, Lady Ishbel Aberdeen, to found an order of visiting nurses to help address a serious nursing shortage. The organization sought to build “cottage hospitals” to serve Canada’s isolated regions, and established sites in most major Canadian cities, including Kingston, in 1898. The Order provided nursing staff to support communities throughout the most important events of the 20th century, and today operates 52 local sites with the help of 14,000 staff and volunteers.

Copy of First Aid to the Injured, content authorized and distributed by St John’s Ambulance c. 1897-1933. – Museum of Health Care 000018007
First page of First Aid to the Injured. – Museum of Health Care 000018007
Commemorative plate featuring a line drawing of KGH as Canada’s first Parliament building. – Museum of Health Care 995002133

In addition, Queen Victoria is credited with the re-establishment of the Order of St. John in 1888. The Order originated during the Crusades in the 11th century, and was named after the Church of St John in Jerusalem which served as a hospital for sick pilgrims. Since its reinstatement, the Order of St John has become famous for its incredible impact on first aid practices. Specifically, the Order played a key role in the standardization of mouth-to-mouth and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Today, the Order trains about 800,000 Canadians in first aid each year.

To learn about these artifacts and more, visit our online collection catalogue by clicking the button below.

Kylie Meyerman<br>(Digital Content & Marketing Assistant 2022)
Kylie Meyerman
(Digital Content & Marketing Assistant 2022)

Kylie Meyerman is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Health Sciences at McMaster University, and plans to graduate in April 2024. This is her first time working at the museum, but she has been a long-time admirer. As a Canada Summer Jobs student this year, she is contributing to the creation and management of the museum’s online content.

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