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Educating Immigrant Mothers: The District Nursing Program and the Reworking of Scientific Motherhood in Alberta, 1919-1943

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ORCID

0000-0003-4411-8206

Type

Thesis

Degree Level

Masters

Abstract

This thesis examines the Alberta district nursing program from its inception in 1919 to 1943. It explores the program’s role in disseminating scientific motherhood, a discourse that instructed women to mother in deference to medical expertise and in accordance with scientific knowledge. Recollections of the district nursing program often present a celebratory narrative of exceptional nurses helping brave pioneers settle remote regions of Alberta. The provincial government certainly created the program to provide medical services to the rural, isolated districts of the province, but its motives extended beyond accepting public responsibility for the health of its residents. The district nursing program operated as a mechanism to survey and assimilate immigrant and Indigenous populations in support of a larger colonial nation-building project. The discourse of scientific motherhood played a critical role in this effort, as it insisted that women abandon traditional mothering practices in favour of scientific methods that upheld middle-class, urban, Anglo-Canadian values. The program stationed nurses in remote communities, necessitating the development of relationships between community members, primarily women, and district nurses to facilitate the dissemination of scientific motherhood. While district nurses’ actions generally aligned with the goals of the nation-building project, their interactions with communities prompted them to reconsider their practice of scientific motherhood in order to provide their patients with the best care possible. Rural women, too, possessed experiential expertise in health care and rural living, and their knowledge informed how they integrated district nurses into their health practices and chose to take up, adapt, or reject the principles of scientific motherhood. Creating trusting relationships and sharing expertise in communities allowed district nurses and women to adapted the discourse of scientific motherhood to reflect their life in the isolated districts of Alberta from 1919-1943.

Description

Keywords

scientific motherhood, district nursing, maternal education, immigration, Canadian prairies

Citation

Degree

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Department

History

Program

History

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