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Headshot of Madeleine Jaffray


Madeleine Jaffray

Madeleine Jaffray was born in August 1889 in Chicago, Illinois, and moved with her family to Galt, Ontario, as a child. She trained as a nurse, and soon after the outbreak of the First World War, she enlisted with the French Red Cross after they had asked for assistance from Canadian nurses. She went overseas in December 1915.

Ms. Jaffray spent 10 months working in a military hospital near Bordeaux, France, before being transferred to a mobile ambulance unit in Adinkerke, Belgium. This area was only a few kilometres from the front lines and was frequently bombed. She was coming out of a covered passageway of one of the wards when a bomb fell in front of her, severely wounding her foot.

The nursing director of the unit wrote to Jaffray's mother, “At one o’clock last night, the hospital was bombarded by German aviators, and she was wounded in the foot by a piece of shrapnel from one of the bombs…It is a bad wound.” Her injury led to an amputation, making her Canada’s only female war amputee of the First World War.

A week after the incident, Ms. Jaffray was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French military for her bravery, with an additional star for her services, though she felt that all the nurses in her unit were equally deserving of it. She was the first Canadian woman to be awarded this medal.

After the war, she worked at the Dominion Orthopedic Hospital on Christie Street in Toronto. She also became The War Amps only female member before the Association began serving civilian adults and children, and took a very active interest in its work and successes. Ms. Jaffray got married at The War Amps convention of 1927 in Hamilton, Ontario, and later moved to Edmonton with her husband. She continued her nursing career, working for the Victorian Order of Nurses and was a member of the Overseas Nurses Association.

Ms. Jaffray passed away on July 23, 1972.

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