Jeanne Mance (1606-1673)

Inspiration for Activism! 

  • Credited as being first lay nurse in North America and the co-founder of Montreal itself.
  • Born in France, practiced nursing during 30-years war (1618-1638).
  • Came to Canada as a lay person with missionary aspirations. Upon arrival in 1642, she used her home as a hospital to treat sick people.
  • 3 years later, with financial support she had obtained in France, she founded the Hotel Dieu hospital in a settlement that became Montreal on a site where today stands a modern Hotel Dieu hospital with statue of Jeanne Mance in front of it.
  • Served as hospital administrator for 17 years. During that time, she made 2 more arduous journeys across the Atlantic (at a time when it took 3 months to cross one way), to secure further French funding and staff to care for the patients.

More information here and here



Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

Inspiration for Activism! 

  • Worked as a visiting nurse in Henry Street Settlement.
  • Fierce advocate for measures to improve the health of poor people. In 1912 she participated in labour action in textile workers’ strike, and wrote a column in “The Call” on women’s sexuality.
  • Coined the term birth control in 1914.
  • Realizing knowledge of and access to contraception was a socio-economic issue, she challenged governmental censure of contractive information by civil disobedience.
  • Indicted in 1914 for violating postal obscenity laws and fled to England for a year to avoid imprisonment.
  • In 1916, Sanger opened the first U.S. birth control clinic (for which she spent 30 days in jail).
  • Founded American Birth Control League, later to become Planned Parenthood.
  • Global role in promoting birth control, e.g., India and Japan, although pronatalist fascist movements impeded progress during WWII.
  • In 1925, Sanger arranged for American manufacture of spring-form diaphrams, and
  • Fostered research into development of spermicidal jellies and foam powders.
  • In the 1950s, secured funding for development of the birth control pill.

More information here


Dorothea Fox Jakob (1946 – )

Inspiration for Activism! 

  • American-born public health nurse; emigrated to Canada in 1973.
  • Strong social justice advocate, particularly anti-child poverty advocacy.

    Dorothea Fox-Jakob

  • Played a key role as public health nurse in Toronto, in identifying electric kettles as a key factor in elevated lead levels among infants. Reporting of her observations led to safety standards for electric kettles across the country.
  • Wrote letters to editors in newspapers, lobbied elected officials as well as the professional nursing association (RNAO) regarding the impact of child poverty on health.
  • Represented RNAO in a meeting on child poverty that led to the establishment of Campaign 2000, a public education and anti-child poverty advocacy group that still exists today.
  • As a member of the Nurses for Social Responsibility, participated in various protest and educational activities focused on the advancement of health equity.
  • Strong believer that the essence of nursing is to bear witness to what we see and speak truth to power.

Robin Lim (1956 – )

Inspiration for Activism! 

  • American citizen with strong ties to Philippines.
  • Also known as Mother or Ibu Robin.
  • Maternal health activist.
  • Became a midwife after several personal/family tragedies.
  • Initially volunteered services in Bali to help local low-income women birth babies.
  • In 2003, founded Yayasan Bumi Sehat clinics (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation) – clinics have helped deliver >5000 babies.
  • Strong parental rights advocate.
  • Awarded 2011 CNN Hero of the Year Award.
  • Author of a number of books on maternal/infant health.

For more information, see here and here

Nurses for Social Responsibility (1985-1995)

Inspiration for Activism

  • A group of nurses, mostly from Toronto, ON who organized to become a distinct and unified nursing voice to speak out on social issues that

    Nurses for Social Responsibility

    influenced health

  • Lobbied professional nursing organizations to take action on a range of issues, such as multilateral nuclear disarmament and child poverty
  • Formed coalitions with like-minded non-nursing activist organizations advocating for women’s health, gender equality, peace
  • Demonstrated support for controversial issues, e.g. abortion rights, needle-exchange programs
  • Engaged in civil disobedience to shut down, temporarily at least, an “arms fair” protest the selling of arms to brutal dictatorships
  • Took positions opposed to violence against women, economic globalization, racism
  • Exposed nursing workplace issues, such as nursing cutbacks, preferential treatment of physicians over nurses, and racism
  • Published a newsletter initially, then later a magazine sold in news outlets across the country – “Towards Justice in Health”

Free download through April, 2018 – article providing a critical review of  “Towards Justice in Health” magazine – Falk-Rafael, A. R., & Bradley, P. A. (2014). “Towards justice in health”: an exemplar of speaking truth to power. ANS. Advances in Nursing Science, 37(3), 224–234.