VGH School of Nursing Portrait Doll Project

We are proud to present you with the speech given by Sheila J. Rankin Zerr at the Alumnae Luncheon May 6, 2012 

It is a great honor to accept this honorary membership from the VGH School of Nursing Alumnae. My association with the VGH School of Nursing goes back to my childhood.  My father’s twin sister, Bessie Rankin. trained here in the 1940s. She was a classmate of Dr. Beverly DuGas. My aunt kept a close association with her classmates throughout her life. She had a strong influenced on my choice of nursing as a career so when I was asked to take the VGH Alumnae portrait doll project on – I did not have to think twice. In 1987 I had a short clinical teaching contract with the VGH School of Nursing and enjoyed working with the students immensely.

It was a pleasure to work with the many folks involved in this project. My good friends Ethel Warbinek and Kathy Murphy were aware of my lifetime work with nursing portrait dolls. I worked closely with Betty Anne Rogers to plan and design the doll uniforms. We succeeded in finding a top quality portrait doll artist, Sheila Cullen, of Langley. Betty Anne was helpful in providing the research and pictures to develop the authentic details of the uniforms. We give full credit to Kirstine Griffith who designed the original set of portrait dolls. Her work was valuable in guiding the uniform patterns and images we used. We added a male doll to acknowledge the male nursing students. We added an Asian doll to honor their acceptance into the school in the 1930s.

We wanted this collection to stand the test of time. Costumed dolls captivate visual history in a way that attracts attention of both knowledgeable experts and the curious passersby. We know that portrait dolls have survived many centuries to preserve the history of past generations and their mode of dress. They provide an excellent way to illustrate and teach nursing history. The use of carefully crafted porcelain dolls was important to ensure the longevity of this collection. Betty Anne Rogers efforts to secure the collection in specially designed cabinets will also help protect the collection from dust and handling.

 Again, it is indeed an honor to be a part of your great school and alumnae. My good friend Dr. Helen Mussellam finally has her wish. For the many years I worked with her on committees in Ottawa she maintained that I was a VGH graduate. As a RJH student I did attend provincial student council meetings when she was director here.  Now I can say I am an honorary member and proud of it. I look forward to our association in the future.

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