Kathleen Ellis - Pioneer
of Nurses' College
Ellis deserves a special place in the nursing history of Saskatchewan. She
is fondly remembered by many as the person to whom we owe the College of Nursing
at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). What many do not remember,
but what Lucy Willis (a later College of Nursing Director) reminds us, is that
Miss Ellis received funding and go-ahead for the College of Nursing during
the Great Depression.
The 1930's were the
years of the Great Depression which, combined with the long years of
drought and crop failures, hit Saskatchewan very hard. The
Government cut University funding drastically, and, in spite of excellent
management, the U. of S. had to limit programs and cut salaries while
still incurring a deficit. There were some months when even payroll could
not be met without borrowing money. University officials listened sympathetically
to the nurses' petitions during those years but they did not have the
resources and so could do little to establish a full undergraduate nursing
course. Little, that is, until the Association brought Miss Ellis to
limited cash flow across the board, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association
(SRNA) and the university came to an agreement that Miss Ellis would work part
time for the SRNA and part time for the university as head of the nursing school.
Each institution would pay half her salary. Miss Ellis would work out of
an office at the university, but spend half her time as Secretary-Treasurer,
Registrar and Advisor to Schools of Nursing for the SRNA.
such a thing from nothing during one of the most difficult economic times the
world has seen shows a determination that not many can boast. "For her
part, like other nurse leaders of her time, Miss Ellis had tremendous stamina
and was willing to work hard and long for the causes she believed in".
after the founding of the University School of Nursing, World War II broke
out. Miss Ellis was one of the University faculty members who joined
the effort on the home front. "Miss Ellis was asked to be Canadian Emergency
Nursing Adviser to identify nursing priorities, need for hospital staff, for
prepared teachers, student enrolment needs (sic). This took her away
from campus for a good part of the school year and she had to recruit substitutes
for her teaching responsibilities".
also served as general secretary for the Canadian Nurses' Association. She
became the first president of the Canadian Association of University Schools
of Nursing and served on a number of committees, "including one set up to investigate
the possibility of instituting eight-hour days for nurses, and another to determine
the plausibility of setting up central school for nursing to make better use
of the limited number of instructors. This interest of hers was the
seed for the development of the Centralized Teaching Program, instituted in
Saskatchewan in 1953".
to her hard work and determination in creating the College and her success in
advancing the nursing profession, the building where the College of Nursing is
now housed bears her name, Ellis Hall.