Canadian Red Cross Welcomes You Photograph

Date / Period
1920s
Object Type
Photographs
Credit
Canadian Red Cross
Topics
Community Health

In the 1920s the Canadian Red Cross began its first-ever peacetime work with public health programs aimed at three populations considered to be particularly vulnerable at that time: sick and wounded veterans of the First World War (1914-18), children, and mothers (who bore and raised those children). This photograph comes from this multi-faceted campaign.

The Canadian Red Cross’s wildly successful work during the First World War led many of its leaders to consider the possibility of carrying on after the war’s end. The idea received an international boost when, in 1919, Red Cross societies in major world powers like Britain, France, and the United States created a new League of Red Cross Societies to support and encourage peacetime Red Cross work around the world.

In Canada, the Red Cross successfully petitioned the government to expand its wartime-only mandate. As of June 1919, the Canadian Red Cross would “carry on activities in time of peace or war for the improvement of health, the prevention of disease, and the mitigation of suffering throughout the world.” This opened up the possible scope of future Red Cross work enormously.

“...for the improvement of health, the prevention of disease, and the mitigation of suffering throughout the world.”

The war left many men sick or wounded, and showed (through the medical examinations all soldiers received) that Canadians were not nearly as healthy as people had previously thought. Many Canadians were concerned with ensuring that the next generation would be healthier. There was no such thing as Medicare at the time, and (particularly in rural and remote areas) infant and maternal mortality rates were shockingly high.

Beginning in 1920, the provincial divisions of the Canadian Red Cross tackled the health needs most relevant to their regions. This diverse array of programs included travelling medical and/or dental clinics, outpost hospitals and nursing stations, public health nurse training programs at major universities, hospitals for disabled children, health promotion displays at provincial exhibitions, health-related magazines and pamphlets, the Junior Red Cross program in schools, lobbying governments to expand their public health services, and services to veterans in hospital.

Although the programs have changed many times in response to evolving needs, the Canadian Red Cross has continued its peacetime and/or public health work in Canada and around the world, without interruption, since 1920.

Canadian Red Cross Welcomes You Photograph

Volunteers at one of the CRC's Port Nurseries
Canadian Red Cross Society volunteers at one of the CRC's Port Nurseries. Although these volunteers are dressed to evoke the appearance of a nurse, and one or two public health nurses were involved with the Port Nurseries, most of the women who volunteered there were not trained nurses.
 A travelling infant health clinic set up by the Canadian Red Cross in a field outside Russell, Ontario (near Ottawa), ca. 1920s-1930s.
A travelling infant health clinic set up by the Canadian Red Cross in a field outside Russell, Ontario (near Ottawa), ca. 1920s-1930s.