MS Nursing thesis defence: "Nursing in Bella Bella, 1901-1925”

Academic Events
Trinity Western University
Alumni Hall, 2nd Floor, Reimer Student Centre
7600 Glover Road
Langley, BC V2Y 1Y1

By: Sarah Cook
Supervisor: Dr. Sonya Grypma
Second Reader: Dr. Geertje Boschma
Third Reader: Professor Laurie Meijer Drees, Chair, First Nations Studies, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC
Exam Chair: Dr. Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham​ 


In the early 1900s the Heiltsuk village of Bella Bella (Wáglísla) was the site of a new Methodist mission hospital and a small Training School for Nurses. This study explores the largely unknown history of missionary nursing on British Columbia’s Northwest Coast between 1901 and 1925, built around the story of nurse Doris Nichols and uses a variety of primary sources from archival and private collections.

Doris Nichols arrived at Bella Bella in 1921, where she began her training to become a nurse at the R. W. Large Memorial Hospital School for Nurses. The hospital was established in 1902 as a means to bring spiritual and physical healing to First Nations people.

This study critically examines the experiences of early missionary nurses—students and graduate nurses—who lived, learned, worked, and worshiped as a part of the Methodist medical mission in Bella Bella and along Rivers Inlet, while giving voice to their under- acknowledged presence and contributions.

As a social history, this study reflects on those experiences through the lenses of gender, age, ethnicity, class, region, and religion. The exploration undertaken concludes that Doris Nichols’ unique opportunity and experience as a missionary nurse was interconnected with—and an extension of—the profound experiences of change that occurred for the Heiltsuk, the Methodist missions, nursing education, and Doris herself.