The 1918 Flu pandemic infected approximately 500 million people – or about 1 in 3 of the world’s total population at that time. Of those infected, between 20 and 50 million died. In the aftermath of the Great War and this horrific flu disaster, people were understandably concerned that the future of the next generation of the nation’s children must be assured.
The British Columbia Women’s Institute reviewed the large numbers of recruits who had been rejected for military service and found many were for defects which could have been corrected with better medical care in childhood. This news gave greater emphasis toward improving public health and public health care.
In 1920 a movement was started to establish the need for a facility to treat crippled children. Raising money was one large portion of it. By 1925, the BC Women’s Institute was looking forward to a time when these children could be treated in a facility of their own. And in April of 1927, the Queen Alexandra Solarium was opened in Mill Bay, Vancouver Island, founded by the BC Women’s Institute. The following year, the Crippled Children’s Hospital opened in a renovated house at 8264 Hudson Street in the Point Grey area of Vancouver, also by the BC Women’s Institute. Today these two facilities are looking to celebrate 90 years of service to this province’s children. They are now known, respectively, as the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, and the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Headed by the Women’s Institutes under the determined leadership of Mrs. Vangie McLachlan of Victoria, the WI members raised money to secure these two facilities, and to provide operating funds for the first years. But it was not only cash money the Women’s Institutes provided – from the time of the opening of the two hospitals, there was a long list of other items also donated: Those members who lived on Vancouver Island gathered the extra eggs they did not need at home – these were stored in a water glass (sodium silicate) mixture and donated to the hospital. Fresh vegetables, in season, as well as berries and fruit were also donated.
During the winter, the women sewed for both hospitals: pajamas, dresses, shirts, and so on. Those who knitted or crocheted made mittens, scarves, toques, sweaters – whatever the hospitals advised the members they could use. It really was a labour of love, and a devoted effort that cannot be matched today.
In the years since, hundreds of thousands of British Columbia children have been treated, and returned to health in these two hospitals, and we salute the medical professionals who have brought so many little ones the gift of good health.
So, let us all join together, and help celebrate the service and devotion of these hospitals, and all the people associated with them over the past 90 years!
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