Thirty-seven uniforms from
nursing schools across Canada are included, beginning with the
uniform that Edna Muir wore [photograph
while training at the Montreal Western Hospital between 1917 and
1920. Until the 1970s, most nurses trained as apprentices at
hospitals, providing the main labour force for the institution.
Each hospital designed its own uniform for its apprentice nurses.
Muir's uniform consisted of an ankle-length dress [uniform dress
with detachable collar and cuffs, a huge starched apron covering
most of the front of the dress, and a mushroom-shaped cap
proudly proclaiming her professional status. The dress material
is printed with the hospital initials.
Nurses' uniforms changed drastically over the next few decades.
The great starched aprons were discarded, and hems and sleeves
were shortened. Uniform styles [e.g. uniform dress
sometimes reflected the current mode, although usually in a
highly conservative way. Student nurses sometimes wore pink
[e.g. uniform dress
blue or checked cloth uniforms, to distinguish their status from
graduate nurses dressed in white.
For outer wear, nurses wore a garment dating back to the
nineteenth century: the cape [e.g. uniform cape
2000.111.381]. The collection includes nine
capes; most are navy blue with brilliant red lining, embroidered
with hospital initials.
During the 1970s, hospital schools of nursing, based on
apprenticeship learning, began to give way to community college
and university training. Hospital rules about wearing uniforms
became less strict and, eventually, uniforms were phased out
altogether. Today, most nurses wear their own choice of work
clothing, usually a pantsuit or comfortable surgery "scrub
suits." In the 1970s, perhaps in anticipation of this
change, the MacMaster School of Nursing in Moncton, New
Brunswick, designed a uniform much like the ubiquitous pantsuit
we see today [e.g. uniform shirt 2000.111.497.1;