About that time, January of 1919, I received an appointment from the provincial
Department of Agriculture to join a group of other instructors leaving for
the north. Grande Prairie was to be the centre for a short winter course in
various subjects of general interest and usefulness. I was to teach home nursing,
bedside care and hygiene. This was my first teaching assignment since graduating
from the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton.
At that time I knew nothing of the far-flung northern portion of the province.
Sufficient that one battled with Edmonton's sub-zero temperatures in winter
and fought its mosquitoes in summer. Going north was a completely new and exciting
experience and with the ardor of youth I boarded that busy and friendly bi-weekly
Northern Alberta Railway train. This railway had but little more than four
years to its credit, with two northern terminals, one of which was at Grande
Prairie and the other across the river north at Peace River Crossing. . . .
It could happen only once - that initiation of the first lecture - the first
facing of a group of women. My white starched uniform covered shaking knees.
How attentive and
interested those prairie wives and mothers were, plying me with questions
and making suggestions arising from their own experiences. Many of these
women, defying the elements, had travelled considerable distances to "The Town" that
they might attend this short course in household arts.
There was not a little
amusement when the question of hygiene arose. It was then that I found
myself in deep water, literally, when that old water pail with the family
dipper hanging beside it, came under discussion--well! What
was to be said about it? So to change the subject I started on what a friend
of mine called "outside inconveniences." This simply ended in hilarious laughter.
After that I confined my subjects to care of the patient in bed and simple
I could never forget
them; a group of mature women, knowing far more of the vicissitudes of
life than had touched me at the time. Some of these women many years
before had travelled with their men in covered wagons, swaying to the
awkward gait of oxen and lending a hand to help build a shelter on that
wide beautiful prairie--dwellings filled with the warmth
that only women dedicated to making a home could create.