Black nurses have a long history of contributing to the health of British Columbians but for decades this contribution went unrecognized. Although Black women could attend Schools of Nursing in the US in the 1870s, it was not until the late 1940s that Canadian Schools of Nursing allowed their entry. However, Black nurses emigrated from the US to BC and early census data showed some listed as nurses and named in records as having attended births.
Ethel Johns, who was part of the creation of the Baccalaureate Nursing program at UBC in 1919, was a strong ally and social justice advocate. Ironically, in 1925 she was hired by the Rockerfeller Foundation to study the status of Black women in nursing in the US. Despite the acknowledged excellence of the report it did not get exposure for almost 60 years and there was no equivalent work done in Canada.
To this day, there are far too few Black nurses in Canadian leadership roles.
For more on BC and Canadian Black nursing history, join a webinar on February 23 hosted by UBC.
For current knowledge resources, visit The Coalition of African, Caribbean and Black Nurses in British Columbia.