It is perhaps little known that Aboriginal women officially participated in the First World War. One of the more interesting stories is that of nurse Edith Anderson.
Anderson was born in 1890 on the Six Nations Reserve, near Brantford, Ontario. A gifted student, Anderson, when in her early 20s, applied to several nursing schools in Ontario. She had no luck. At the time, Aboriginal women were usually excluded from nursing programs in Canada. [The federal Indian Act placed restrictions on status Aboriginals’ pursuit of higher education.] So, Anderson, turned to the United States. She was accepted into the Rochelle Nursing School in New York, and became a registered nurse in 1914, after graduating first in her class. For a time, she worked as a nurse at a private school in New Rochelle. However, in 1917, when the United States entered the First World War, Anderson volunteered as a Nursing Sister with the U.S. Army Nursing Corps. She trained for three months locally, and then before leaving for France in Feb. 1918, she returned to Six Nations to visit with her family. While there, she was given her ceremonial Mohawk clothing. In case she died overseas, she could be buried in them.
Anderson worked as a nurse at Buffalo Base Hospital 23, at Vittel, France for over a year, joining the approximately 3000 other Canadian women who enlisted for the war. Most of these women joined the Canadian Army Nursing Corps. They were single and usually well-educated (which at the time, for women, meant they had a high school education). Nurses earned much respect during the war, as their jobs were very physically demanding and emotionally draining. Anderson’s diary made references to working long shifts with gassed and severely wounded patients and walks through battlegrounds looking for wounded. In June of 1918, she wrote of one particular patient: “My pet patient Earl King the boy who adopted me for his big sister, died this A.M. at 7:15. Had hemorrhage at 3:15 A.M. The poor boy lost consciousness immediately. My heart was broken. Cried most of the day and could not sleep.”
After the war, Anderson returned to the Six Nations Reserve. She married Claybran Monture with whom she had four children. She continued to work as a nurse and midwife in Brantford until she was in her 60s. She passed away in 1996 shortly before her 106th birthday. Anderson was likely an inspiration to other women on the reserve. After the war, nursing became an increasingly popular career choice for women in her community.
|Full Name||Anderson, Charlotte Edith|
|Also Known As||Monture, Charlotte Edith, Monture, Edith|
|Band Name||Upper Mohawk Band|
|Band Location||Six Nations Grand River, ON|
|Birthplace||Six Nations Reserve|
|Date of Death||1996-04-03|
|Married before Enlistment||Single|
|Occupation before Enlistment||Nurse|
|Biographical Notes||John Moses - My maternal grandmother Edith Anderson Monture served with the US Army Nurse Corps of the AEF during the First World War. Born and raised at the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in 1890, as a young woman she determined to become a nurse, but Indian Act restrictions of her era obliged her to take her training in the US. She was living and working as public health nurse in NYC when the Americans joined the war effort in 1917. So she volunteered for duty as a nurse, but with the US Army as opposed to the Canadian or British Army. She served overseas in France from 1917 to 1919. Returning to Six Nations after the War, she married, raised her own family, and continued working as a nurse and midwife at Six Nations until the 1960s. She passed away in 1996, just a few days short of her 106th birthday. At her funeral, many of the Six Nations clanmothers and other elder women in attendance lovingly recalled how of all their many children, it was usually Edith who attended them at their deliveries, and handed them their newborns. Interested readers should google "Native Soldiers, Foreign Battlefields" and "A Commemorative History of Aboriginal Peoples in the Canadian Military". Canada's two largely Indigenous battalions of the Great War were the 107th "Timber Wolf" Battalion, and the 114th Battalion, "Brock's Rangers". My great uncles Arnold Moses and James Moses (Delaware band, Six Nations of the Grand River) both served in each of these. Pvt. Arnold Moses survived the War, but Lt. Jim Moses transferred to the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force, and was reported MIA on 1 April 1918 while serving as a forward artillery observer and air gunner with 57 Squadron RAF.|
|CEF Unit||Nurse U.S. Medical Corps, Vittel France|
|Previous Military Experience||No|
|Date of Enlistment||1917-01-01|
|Location of Enlistment||New York, USA|
|Age at Enlistment||27|
|Age at death||105|
|Other links||http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/aboriginal-veterans/native-soldiers/nurse ; http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.com/searches/soldierDetail.asp?ID=113024|
|Veterans’ Land Grants reference number||1946-1957 (LAC RG10-B-3-e-xvi)|