CHESLEY, ANNIE AMELIA, nursing superintendent and instructor; b. 1857 or 1858 in or near Toronto, daughter of Edward James Chesley and Alpha Mary Turquand; d. unmarried 6 Nov. 1910 in Ottawa.
Annie Amelia Chesley was born into a family that had a lengthy association with public service: both her grandfather Solomon Yeomans Chesley* and her father were long-time members of the Indian Department. Nothing is known of Annie’s early years. She trained as a nurse between 1893 and 1896 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md, where she remained as a head nurse until early 1898.
In 1897 several of Ottawa’s leading citizens, including Dr Henry Pulteney Wright and lumber magnates John Rudolphus Booth* and John Manuel, had founded St Luke’s Hospital (later incorporated into Ottawa Civic). Although financially sustained by the Presbyterian Church, it received the full support of Ottawa’s élite. Sir Wilfrid Laurier* laid its cornerstone and Governor General Lord Aberdeen [Hamilton-Gordon*] and Lady Aberdeen [Marjoribanks*] led the opening ceremonies in July 1898.
The hospital’s declared objective was to act as “a modern hospital for the scientific care and treatment of the sick and injured.” To help meet this goal a training-school for nurses was established, to be shared with the Lady Stanley Institute, which had been set up in 1891 to provide instruction, as well as a residence, for nurses and to offer public lectures. Chesley was named lady superintendent at St Luke’s. Her role was a dual one. First, she administered the 30-bed institution, supervising health and dietary care. In the early years she was required personally to order the food and medical supplies and oversee the dietary kitchen. Secondly, she set and administered the curriculum for the three-year training program for nurses. In its first three years, Chesley received 300 applications for admission and from these she selected 30; the initial class of seven graduated in 1901. Although the nurses’ regimen emphasized a scientific approach, St Luke’s blended this aspect of their training with traditional forms of health care. It was thus regarded as a “family hospital.”
The formal course of study included lectures during the day from Miss Chesley and her four assistants, and in the evening from local doctors. The “continuous course of practical demonstrations” involved hourly examinations of patients’ temperatures, pulses, and stools and urine, and the keeping of detailed records. Students were also given cooking lessons, using various dietary plans, and a course in massage. Nevertheless, a good deal of manual labour was expected from the young women, including the polishing of the cut-glass inkstands in the boardroom. The student nurses did not serve only at St Luke’s: a number performed practical work for periods of a few months in other local hospitals, including the Ottawa Maternity Hospital, established in 1895.
Regarding her position as one of senior management, Chesley stressed the separation of her administrative team from the group of student nurses. Thus, while she yearly awarded a personal medal to her most outstanding pupil, there is little evidence of a less formal, or warm, relationship between Chesley and the students. In addition to her responsibilities at St Luke’s, Annie Chesley was active in the wider nursing profession. She served as first president of the Ottawa Graduate Nurses Association. With several nursing associates, she established the first central registry for professional nurses in Ottawa; it probably attempted to identify certified nurses in the area and perhaps suggest appropriate names to private households in need of nursing care.
In 1902 Miss Chesley’s load was somewhat lightened by the naming of an assistant lady superintendent, Miss Emily Maxwell. She succeeded her superior after a long illness necessitated Chesley’s retirement in 1910. Annie Chesley died less than eight months later in the hospital that had become her home. She was mourned by her “graduates.” Although she had seen herself primarily as an administrator of students rather than as their counsellor, she had been, the Canadian Nurse recalled, “ever ready to advise and encourage, ever interested in their sorrows and joys and ready to lend a sympathetic ear.”
Alan Mason Chesney Medical Arch., Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions (Baltimore, Md), File information concerning Chesley. AO, RG 22, ser.354, no.6162; RG 80–8, no.1910-010062. Beechwood Cemetery (Ottawa), Burial records. City of Ottawa Arch., St Luke’s Hospital records, including clipping from the Ottawa Evening Citizen, 7 Nov. 1953. NA, MG 28, III 26, 719. Ottawa Evening Journal, 9 Nov. 1910: 2. Canadian Nurse and Hospital Rev. (Toronto, etc.), 7 (1911): 14. Johns Hopkins Nurses Alumnae Magazine (Baltimore), 11 (1911): 185–86.