Somewhere in France

Somewhere in France

Friday, March 1, 2013

Canada's Only Female Nurse Amputee of WWI

Since I haven't yet received my latest bundle of nurses' military files from the National Archives, I'm going to write about another nurse who survived the war--but served at a great cost to herself. Her name was Madeleine Jaffray.

Madeleine Frances Jaffray was born in August 1889 in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of James P. Jaffray, an immigration agent for the Canadian government. She was raised in Galt, Ontario and studied nursing at the Clifton Springs Sanitorium Clinic in New York.

Jaffray was one of ten nurses sent overseas in 1915 by the Canadian National Nursing Association in answer to an appeal made by the French Flag Nursing Corps. After spending ten months in a military hospital near Bordeaux, she was transferred to a mobile ambulance unit in Adinkerke, Belgium, five miles from the frontlines. Jaffray described how the unit was frequently bombed. “On the fourth of June, I was coming out of a covered passage in one of the wards when a bomb fell right in front of me,” said Jaffray. A piece of shell severely wounded her foot, blowing off the heel, dissecting two bones and fracturing another. Despite the fact that bombs were dropping all around them, the other nurses ran to Jaffray’s aid, one losing consciousness from the fumes produced by the bombs.

A week after her experience, Jaffray was awarded the Croix de Guerre with star, the first Canadian woman to receive this honour. She was pleased to receive it, but felt all the nurses in the unit were equally deserving. However, none of the other women had sacrificed as much as Jaffray—after four weeks in hospital, surgeons made the decision that her foot had to be amputated, making her Canada’s only female war amputee.

After the war, Jaffray worked at the Dominion Orthopedic Hospital, Christie Street in Toronto, Ontario. In 1926, she met watchmaker Byron Morrison in Edmonton, Alberta. They were married on September 23, 1927 in Hamilton, Ontario at the convention of the Amputations Association of The Great War. Jaffray was the only female member of the Amputations Association in Canada. They moved to Edmonton, and Madeleine worked for the Victorian Order of Nurses and was involved with the War Amputees of Canada. She was also a member of the Edmonton Star, the Overseas Nurses Association and the Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire. Jaffray died on July 23, 1972.

(With notes from the Provincial Archives of Alberta and from an 1917 interview by Elizabeth Montizambert of the Montreal Gazette.)