Growing Up Healthy in the 20th Century
About 1950-1959, 20th century
Gift of Mrs. Diane Nagy
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Medical case (2) , Toy (148)
Keys to History
This type of nurse's kit was, and still is, a way for children to learn about the world of medicine. It was during the 20th century that medical science began taking a keen interest in childhood. In 1880 Dr. Séverin Lachapelle stated: "There is one particularly unsettling belief that is particularly widespread and deeply rooted in our families because it is shared by medical practitioners, and that is that there is no point in treating children's diseases." This perception changed at the start of the 20th century. The alarming infant mortality rate and a general movement in the West to "safeguard childhood," as it was put, prompted doctors and other reformers to take an interest in children's health and survival.
Pediatrics developed in the 20th century. Health professionals had access to an increasingly wide range of instruments and technologies -- from stethoscopes to thermometers to X-ray machines -- that they incorporated into their practice. Doctors specialized more and more, and nursing school graduates joined health care teams in hospitals and clinics.
This play medical kit contains a stethoscope, two tongue depressors, some small bottles of "medicine," and a nurse's cap and apron.
The first nursing school in Quebec, at the Montreal General Hospital, opened on April 1, 1890. Growing demand for nurses prompted the establishment of many more nursing schools across the province over the next four decades.
The white cap and apron distinguished nursing school graduates from untrained nursing assistants after about 1875. Nurses stopped wearing the cap, a symbol of their profession, and the uniform in the 1970s.
British nurse Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was a role model for many girls who dreamed of a nursing career. She devised a system for training nurses that was adopted in Canada and first put into practice in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1874.