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Memorable Manitobans: Ethel Lily May Thorpe (c1908-2001)


Born at Norwich, England around , she trained as a nurse at Hellesdon Hospital, Norwich and the Royal Free Hospital in London. After joining the Royal Army Nursing Corps in March 1940, she saw service in military hospitals in Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and India.

Following her military discharge in April 1947, she was appointed Matron of the County Hospital at Shanghai, China. With the collapse of the National Chinese Government in 1948, she evacuated to England. In 1950 she was appointed Matron of Bellevue Hospital, Jamaica, a post she held until 1963. She then immigrated to Canada following her appointment as Nursing Consultant to the Sanatorium Board of Manitoba.

Following retirement from the Sanatorium Board in 1973, she attended the University of Manitoba, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree (1976) and Master of Arts (Anthropology, 1982). Her MA thesis dealt with the treatment of smallpox and tuberculosis in Canada. In recognition of her outstanding contribution to the nursing profession, the International Committee of the Red Cross Society awarded her its Florence Nightingale Medal (1981). She also received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977) and was inducted into the Order of the British Empire (1956).

She died at Winnipeg on 4 December 2001 and was buried in Glen Eden Memorial Garden.


The Social Histories of Smallpox and Tuberculosis in Canada (Culture, Evolution and Disease) by Ethel L. M. Thorpe, MA Thesis in Anthropology, University of Manitoba, 1989.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 12 December 2001.

“We will not forget them,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 December 2001, page B3.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 9 March 2016

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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