Black and white image of a roofless car in front of a building covered in foliage. A man is standing next to it, with one leg resting on the bumber.
Dr. Williams circa 1920; the Vernon Archives does not have a photograph of Miss Gallaher in their collection.

“Matron and Nurses Relinquish Their Positions on April 2,” read a shocking headline in the Vernon News of March 28, 1912. This dramatic act of protest was initiated by the Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s Lady Superintendent, Minnie Katherine Gallaher, in response to what she deemed a “long series of indignities suffered by her and her staff at the hands of Dr. Williams.”

Miss Gallaher was born in Kingston, Ontario, in 1880, and came to VJH in 1909, after seven years as Assistant Superintendent at the Carlton County Hospital in Ottawa. On March 22, 1912, she sent a long letter to the hospital’s directors (which was also published in the Vernon News) describing Dr. Williams behavior.

One particular situation saw a confusion over who should be administering a sedative to a patient, resulting in Dr. Williams screaming that “too long had nurses been dictating and he wouldn’t allow it.” He proceeded to “dance with rage and more profanity was used,” after which he subjected Miss Gallaher to a five or ten minute diatribe, “continually interspersing his remarks with profanity.”

Dr. Williams was given a chance to defend himself against the accusations, and although the hospital board concluded by sustaining the nurses’ charges and warning the doctor to not behave in such a manner again, he was allowed to continue working at the hospital. This decision is what caused all of the nurses to resign in a considerable show of solidarity.

Dr. Gerald Williams arrived in Vernon in 1894, after training at the St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, England. He was known as the bitter enemy of not only Miss Gallaher, but another local doctor as well, Osborne Morris. It is perhaps telling, therefore, that Dr. Morris was described as a “genial and cordial gentleman” and had a particular kindliness when working with children.

By April of 1912, the nurses had been replaced by 8 others, which was just as well, as there were 40 patients in the hospital that month. Miss Gallaher continued to have a successful healthcare career, serving as Assistant Superintendent at the Vancouver General Hospital and later Superintendent at the Moose Jaw General Hospital. Dr. Williams carried on practicing in Vernon for many years and is believed to have died around 1935.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives