"Non sibi, sed toti" (Not for ourselves, but others): Celebrating Peninsula Nurses
Updated: May 8
In 2019, the Royal Jubilee School of Nursing (RJSN) Archives and Museum closed and the collection was distributed to other historical organizations across Canada. The Saanich Pioneer Society is grateful to have received a number of artifacts including uniforms, instruments, student and graduate pins, and other nursing memorabilia. A former RJSN student and retired nurse also donated items from her personal collection, and our Archives includes information and photos relating to nurses who studied elsewhere.
In this online exhibit, which will evolve and grow over time, we'll profile Peninsula nurses represented in our collections.
Edith Mary Walker
Portrait in above photo: Edith Mary Walker (1859-1931), Christmas 1927 (Saanich Pioneer Society Archives F531Ph #1) Edith Walker was a nurse and midwife. She attended many home births as well as having five care beds in their own house. It was called Cedar Cottage Nursing Home and sometimes Mrs. Walker’s Maternity Home. This little cottage is where many children in the district were born. A partial list of the local families who had children born there included: Dean, Briscoe, Herd, Norbury, Nunn, two Roberts babies, three Gillan babies, two Whitlaw babies, two Horth babies and at least eight Lidgate babies, including one set of twins.
According to her obituary, she died on November 26, 1931 at age 72 in the Coach Lines Depot where she was waiting for her daughter to arrive from Tacoma, Washington. Her obituary makes no mention of the fact she was a midwife. According to Edith’s friends, her daughter, Eva, was a socialite and did not want to admit that her mother was a midwife. Edith is buried at St. Stephen’s cemetery.
In 1997, there was an effort to have the old Nursing Home house moved when the lot was being redeveloped. The recommendation sent to Central Saanich Council by the Heritage Advisory Committee was “that approval be given that the “Walker residence” be moved to the grounds of the North and South Saanich Agricultural Society, the addition to the south side of the house be removed and that the exterior impregnated fibreboard be replaced by horizontal cedar siding and painted white.”
Though the house was in the Central Saanich Heritage Registry it did not have Heritage Designation. Apparently the answer was “no” to both Designation and being moved, since the house is gone.
Effie Katherine Margaret Hughes was born on December 23, 1920 in Victoria to Margaret Gertrude Thomson and Captain Harry Stewart Hughes, a master mariner; she was the granddaughter of William Thomson and Margaret Dwyer of Bannockburn Farm.
Effie was about 23 years old when she graduated from Royal Jubilee Hospital School Of Nursing in 1943; she then served overseas in WWII. The Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing motto was "Non sibi, sed toti" (Not for ourselves, but others).
She married William Donald Evans on August 14, 1948 at St. Stephen's Church in Saanichton and they settled in Vancouver. (William's mother lived in New Westminster.) Later on Effie became the owner of Bannockburn, where her father had continued to live after her mother's death in 1958. She and her husband would also move in, and stay there for the remainder of her life.
Effie Hughes Evans died at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital on February 10, 1996 at the age of 75. She was survived by William. Her death record lists her occupation only as "Housewife". We continue to search for more information on her nursing career.
Hilda Butterfield was born in Port Simpson, BC (Prince Rupert) on September 7, 1907 to J.C. (Jack) and Evelyn Butterfield. Her father was a master mariner. In 1912 or 1913, the Butterfields moved to Vancouver Island and bought a 13-acre property on Mount Newton Cross Road, which they operated as a poultry farm.
Young Hilda attended St. Margaret's School in Victoria before training at the Royal Jubilee School of Nursing. She continued to work at Jubilee after her training until her father's death in 1930, when she returned home to live with her mother.
During the Second World War, Hilda joined the army and was stationed at St. Anne de Bellevue in Quebec. After the war she returned home to the farm and continued on as before until 1961, when her mother died.
In an account from 1988, Joan Hodgson described Hilda as:
[...] competent to take over the property. She could fence and plumb and until the last few years she did all the gutters herself on her high roof."
She rode horses, too. In the earlier years, she had a horse named Blue which she was known to take out on Mount Newton Cross Road. Later, she had a large bay horse called Max; she rode him to the annual horseman's service at St. Stephen's.
Hilda was a long time resident of Saanichton and belonged to number of local organizations including the Saanich Heritage Artifacts Society (now Heritage Acres), the Saanich Pioneer Society, the Pentax camera club, and, fittingly, the Hospital Auxiliary.
She died on April 17, 1987 at the age of 79 after a period of ill health and was survived by her cousin, Jean Bradley of Calgary, (Hilda never married). She is buried at St. Stephen's, where she was a member and heavily involved with parish life.
The family farm, where she returned after her father's passing rather than continuing with her nursing career, became municipally-owned parkland: Butterfield Park. Hilda bequeathed the 13-acre property to the Thetis Park Nature Sanctuary Association; her mother had been a member and was a devoted gardener. They declined the offer, however, allowing the bequest to go to the District of Central Saanich. According to the bylaw, approved in 1988, the land was
[...] reserved for the pleasure and recreational use of the public, including the preservation of wild flowers.
The Butterfield house remains on site and is in the care of a resident caretaker despite several efforts to have it demolished. The house was designated a municipal heritage building in 1992 with extensive work done on the structure. Sadly, the historic landscapes were not maintained or restored.
Margaret Helen MacKenzie (later Pitts), known as Peggy, was born at Bannockburn Farm on November 26, 1885 to Alexander MacKenzie and Helen Thomson; she was the granddaughter of William Thompson. Her father started a logging camp on the Saanich Arm in 1882; MacKenzie Bay and Mountain are named after him. Margaret's baptism record lists him as a farmer.
One of eight children, she grew up in her parents’ house at the corner of East Saanich Road and Blackthorne (1963 Blackthorne). Her siblings were Hugh W.D., Lilith Evelyn Nimmo, Mildred M.M. Ibbetson, Jessie Theresa Kennedy, Hazel Grace (died young), Doris May Dorman, and Dr. Roderick Murray MacKenzie.
Unfortunately, we don't have much information on Margaret's nursing career. According to our research, she graduated from St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1920 and served as a Nursing Sister in England during WWII. If you are able to add more, please let us know.
She married artist Arthur D.J. Pitts on September 22, 1924 at St. Stephen’s. In fact, she was a member of the congregation for her entire life; her baptism and funeral also took place there.
After Margaret's death in 1959 at Resthaven Hospital in Sidney, Arthur married Winnifred Pitts, nee Gilmer. Margaret was a member of the Saanich Pioneer Society.