Women and their Work

Where Children Cry in Fourteen Languages

Constantly Canadians are learning, always to their surprise, that their fellow-countrymen have been the originators of inventions and ideas that the world has been glad to copy. Here is another—the first port nursery in the world, born in Saint John, N.B.

INA WINIFRED COLWELL November 15 1925
Women and their Work

Where Children Cry in Fourteen Languages

Constantly Canadians are learning, always to their surprise, that their fellow-countrymen have been the originators of inventions and ideas that the world has been glad to copy. Here is another—the first port nursery in the world, born in Saint John, N.B.

INA WINIFRED COLWELL November 15 1925

Where Children Cry in Fourteen Languages

Women and their Work

INA WINIFRED COLWELL

Constantly Canadians are learning, always to their surprise, that their fellow-countrymen have been the originators of inventions and ideas that the world has been glad to copy. Here is another—the first port nursery in the world, born in Saint John, N.B.

“ AND what is it you need to carry out this idea of yours?” A A. The speaker was Dr. Helen McMurchie, of Ottawa, who has done so much for child welfare in Canada, and she addressed Mrs. Margaret Lawrence of Saint John, N.B., in Canada’s winterport, some time in the year 1920.

T Mrs. Lawrence’s idea was a “Port Nursery,”—a necessary haven for women and children immigrants who, after being cooped up as steerage passengers for several days, find themselves tired out, hungry and dirty, and thrust suddenly into the new land to which they had come with so much hope, ill-prepared to take up the strange reins unceremoniously thrust into their hands.

Immigration and port officials had no time or opportunity to cater to individual wishes and fears. It was their duty to see that no undesirables were admitted to Canada, and the heterogeneous mass which the steerage of every incoming steamer belched forth to them had to be treated collectively. They recognized Mrs. Lawrence’s idea as practical, and they welcomed it, offering her all possible co-operation. Experience had taught them, as it had her, that the psychological moment for the advent of the Port Nursery had arrived. Dr. McMurchie was also quick to appreciate this fact. She had made a special trip of investigation to Saint John, and so she asked,

“And what is it you need to carry out this idea of yours?”

“I want a dozen little red chairs and all the hot water in the world,” Mrs. Lawrence replied.

The First Port Nursery

WITH such equipment then, was started thefirst Port Nursery in the world. Quebec was not long in seeing the value and necessity of it, and a second nursery was soon opened there. Halifax followed in the footsteps of Quebec, and Miss Vivian Tremaine,the Canadian nurse who attended King George when he fell from his horse, has been appointed supervisor of all three, with headquarters at Quebec.

Women’s work at the port of Saint John began with the return of soldier dependdents at the close of the war. From December until May, Saint John blossomed forth as Canada’s winterport. Then it was that representatives from the Red Cross, V. A.D.’s, Y.W.C.A., and Patriotic League united with the aid of government and port officials to welcome to Canada the wives and children of the soldiers who had married while overseas. So many of them came with no sense of direction, no idea of the magnitude of this country of ours, and the confusion and strangeness of their surroundings seemed to some of them almost more than they could bear. Gratefully they accepted the aid offered by this band of women who had volunteered to help them. Touching incidents we-e all in the day’s work—unlovely incidents also. Only those women actively engaged in the work could realize the farreaching effects of what they had set out to do.

Think what it means, you women of the

prairie provinces, to live in a seaport city, such as Saint John, and answer the siren call of every incoming steamer, no matter what the hour, what the weather might be, or no matter what other pressing demands were made on your time. You could then understand, in a measure, the untiring service accorded by this valiant band of patriotic workers.

Mrs. Margaret Lawrence

MRS. MARGARET LAWRENCE was in charge of the Red Cross Committee. It is indeed to her credit that she was able to meet almost every boat. Her friends soon laughingly quoted her as “living” on the docks at West Saint John, and it was unusual not to see there her trimfigure with the emblematic sleeve badge, setting right confused young brides whose husbands had, in some manner they couldn’t explain, failed to meet them, comforting tired mothers and soothing crying babies, as soon as they were allowed off the boat. She saw and fully appreciated the depth of feeling shown in the lighting up of the tired faces as soon as a little kindness was shown to them, and she realized that such a work should not be allowed to lapse. Women would still come to Canada, and they would need care and attention—some even more so than the soldier dependents.

C.P.R. officials were among the first to offer hearty cooperat ion. While the soldier dependents were coming back, a portion of the freight sheds owned by the C.P.R. at West Saint John, had been partitioned off fortheir use, but now even greater assistance was offered. Mr. Kirby, the local manager, was instructed to go over with Mrs. Lawrence, in detail, plans for the new nursery, and to do all in his power to aid her.

The plans were soon carried out. It is a very wellequipped nursery now, for after the hot water and chairs, came little tables to match the chairs, cribs for the tiny babies, set tubs for the mothers to do their laundry work before starting on the Continued on page 6S Continued from page 66 second leg of their journey, lavatories, and many things too small and numerous to mention.

The Tiny Travelers

TN THE little Port Nursery at Saint •*John children have cried in fourteen different languages, for thither goes a conglomerate world. Infants in swaddling clothes are not uncommon, not to mention infants with no clothes at all. For some of them are born on the journey across the Atlantic, and for them a complete outfit is necessary—and forthcoming. Plenty of warm, free milk is available and arrowroot biscuits are handed out unsparingly to the older children, while for the mother there is the needful cup of tea. It is a warm reception to the new land.

Gradually, more and more was added to the little nursery and soon it had to be extended. Children were often detained there for hours while their parents were busy with immigration and medical officials or waiting for train time. After train time came roll call, but up to the present, no one has answered it. Not one baby has been left behind or neglected. Often a baby is “nearly” left, but at the last moment a breathless parent comes rushing up excitedly to claim it.

A post office was next to beinaugurated, the cage for which was given by the C.P.R., and a younglady named MacLean placed in charge. Through this small post office cards have gone forth in almost every known language, expressive of more hope, fear and joy than ever post office could boast. A Bureau of Information came next, and there is now installed at Saint John a young Russian girl refugee, who acts as interpreter. ^

Just as soon as the women and children are allowed off the boats the real work commences. They are ushered into the big rest room, while the children and nurs| ing mothers are taken into the nursery,

I where there are plenty of baby baths and cribs at their disposal. Some are still in their native dress, and nearly every one of them has washing of some kind to do.

Miss Bertha Gregory is the nurse in charge. V.A.D.’s are ready to attend to minor wants, but no prescription is given without the sanction of the port doctor, and Saint John proudly claims Dr. Margaret Parks, as the first woman doctor to be appointed for this work by the Medical Board of Immigration.

Looking After the Newcomers

TT WAS in April, 1921, that the first A agreement between the Red Cross Society and the Department of Immigration was drawn up. Every mother who passes through the ports of Saint John, Quebec or Halifax, carries with her a card, written in her native language, giving on one side the various addresses of Canadian Red Cross Societies in Canada, and on the other, under the title “Canada Welcomes Her New Children and Cares for Their Welfare,” implicit instructions as follows:—

“If your children, especially the baby, are not well, or not growing properly, take this card to:

The nearest Doctor,

The City or Town Hall,

The Hospital,

The Public Health Nurse,

The Victorian Order Nurse,

The Red Cross Nurse.

“If further information is wanted, write to the Health Officer for your province or to the Canadian Red Cross.”

A careful record is kept of every mother and her children, and the up-to-date filing system tells many an interesting story of a family’s struggle to obtain their footing in the new land.

A Capable Woman

MRS. LAWRENCE’S other duties will not permit her to spend as much time at the Port Nursery as she would like. A year or two ago she resigned active charge, hut often goes “home” to the docks at West Saint John and lends a helping hand. She has also to her credit the fact that she organized the New Brunswick branch of the Junior Red Cross, and the Story Telling Group at the Saint John Free Public Library, which is ten years old this year, offers substantial proof that it is possible to procure volunteers who are capable story tellers, and to procare them regularly when wanted. The chief librarian of a New York library told Mrs. Lawrence this was not possible.

Mrs. Lawrence is also an experienced journalist, and still finds time for plenty of articles and lectures on the work she loves. The immediate success of her first attempts, she says, was due largely to the co-operation she received from all sides, but I would go a step farther and say a “Mrs. Lawrence” was necessary. She is well known as a large minded woman who, long before her hair began to turn to the beautiful snowy whiteness of to-day, de-

voted much of her time to public good, particularly with respect to women and children. Co-operation was offered her because those who offered knew her and her work. Her achievements are many, and when asked what is her greatest achievement, she proudly points to the pictures of her two beautiful daughters and her two equally beautiful grandchildren—a boy and a girl—which is, after all, only another way of saying that her first thought is of her home and of what it means to her.