2018 – Challenge and Change: Health & Disease

One of the greatest examples of human ingenuity is health sciences. People have worked together for centuries in order to learn about and understand the human body. This has helped us to better take care of the people around us and improve upon life expectancy and quality of life.

Canada, at times, has been a leader in healthcare innovation.  Whether it is the discovery of insulin by Frederick Banting and Charles Best, breakthroughs in stem cell research by James Till and Ernest McCulloch, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, or Tommy Douglas’s universal healthcare bill, there is much for Canadians to be proud of when it comes to advances in health science.

In most cases, medical innovation is driven by the need to seek answers to problems. Challenges lead physicians and scientists to improve our technology and improve quality of life.

This exhibit features two items — a fetal stethoscope and a First World War wedding photograph. Exploration and investigation of these objects allows us to explore a number of very significant moments and events in history, both locally and across Canada. The fetal stethoscope can help us explore the establishment of a hospital to serve a growing population, women’s organizations and suffrage, eugenics and socialized healthcare. A photograph of a First World War soldier, Harry Conlin will help us explore one of the worst epidemics and health crises of the 20th Century — the Spanish flu.

Fetal Stethoscope, DCMA Collection: A216-328

This fetal stethoscope was used at the Lord Dufferin Hospital in Orangeville in the early 1900s. It was donated to the museum, along with other medical devices following a special exhibit project in 2012.

The artifact is 8 inches long, with a cup at each end and a channel or hole through the center. The device is made entirely out of wood.

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The fetal stethoscope was invented by Adolphe Pinard in France in 1895.  The fetal-scope was named the “Pinard Horn” because of the way the device resembles a trumpet. To use the fetal-scope, you would place the large cup on a woman’s abdomen and press your ear on the smaller cup. The cup helps amplify sound, while the inner channel directs the sound to the listener’s ear. This would help a physician, nurse or midwife to determine the heart-rate and even position of a fetus, and provide an assessment of fetal health.

Adolphe Pinard (1844-1934) Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://resource.nlm.nih.gov/101426327

This device is extremely important to both Dufferin County’s history and Canadian history. The reason for this is not because of the device itself, but because of a series of historical events it points to. As with babies and children, one thing often leads to another.

For the purposes of this study into challenge and change in healthcare, a variety of statistics were collected including births in hospitals between the years 1926 and 1974, birth rates between 1924 and 1974, and healthcare spending between 1926 and 1975.

Trent Rut infographic

The fetal-scope was used at the Lord Dufferin Hospital. The Lord Dufferin Hospital was made possible thanks to fundraising efforts by the Orangeville chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E). This group was all about volunteerism and community service. It is truly amazing that this lone group funded the purchase and conversion of a house into a fully-staffed hospital. Thanks to their work, the Lord Dufferin Hospital opened in 1912.

Orangeville copy
Location of the Lord Dufferin Hospital in Orangeville.

It turns out that many members of the I.O.D.E. were also suffragists who campaigned for women to be declared “persons” by law and to have the right to vote. In fact, Canada’s most famous suffragists or “suffragettes” were active members of the I.O.D.E. They are usually called “the famous five” — Nellie McClung, Louise Mckinney, Irene Parlby, Henretta Edwards, and Emily Murphy.

The Famous Five, Suffragists, Source: Women’s Political Movement, 1920, https://wpm1920.weebly.com.

The work done by the Orangeville chapter of the I.O.D.E. to fund, open and run a hospital, must have helped the suffragist cause, proving that women were capable administrators.


Interestingly, three out the five of the “Famous Five” were supporters of the Eugenics Movement, which started around 1904 promoting selective reproduction by “well born” individuals and sterilization programs. In addition, the inventor of the fetal-scope, Adolphe Pinard, was the founding member of a eugenics society in France.

The eugenics movement was based on social and scientific assumptions and caught the attention of many people seeking to improve society. Emily Murphy promoted sterilization toward supposedly  “insane people” in fear of future generation inheriting the same characteristics. Nellie McClung was in favour of sterilization of the “simple minded” individuals or people with intellectual disabilities. Irene Parlby also promoted eugenics believing that population growth should be carefully monitored.

Support for eugenics practices reached their height in the 1920’s, interestingly right around the time women were given the vote. Laws were passed in Alberta and British Columbia permitting the sterilization of individuals deemed “unworthy” of reproducing. In Alberta, the sterilization act was in place for 44 years, until 1972. During this time, 4725 cases were brought before the Eugenics Board, of which 2822 were carried out. Some individuals were sterilized without their permission or knowledge.

By today’s standards, eugenics is considered discriminatory and immoral. It could be argued that pro-eugenics beliefs should tarnish the reputation and legacy of historical figures such as suffragists or Dr. Pinard. It is, however, important to understand that these people were a product of their time. Perhaps, if alive today, their views would be very different.

When the Lord Dufferin Hospital was built, members of the I.O.D.E took up positions of the hospital board. One of their contributions as administrators was the establishment of a nursing training program. This program not only provided education and careers to women, but also increased support for women’s health.

The I.O.D.E managed the hospital for 42 years, until 1953, when it was renamed the Dufferin Area Hospital. As Orangeville and the surrounding area was growing, socialized healthcare was being introduced, and medical technologies were advancing, there was a need for a larger and more up-to-date hospital in the area. Today, Dufferin County’s citizens are served by Headwaters Healthcare Centre. The land where the Lord Dufferin Hospital once stood is now the location of the Lord Dufferin Centre, a retirement residence.

Headwaters Healthcare Centre, Orangeville. Source: Rural Ontario Medical Program https://romponline.com/partners/communities/orangeville/

The fetal-scope has mostly been replaced by ultrasound technology, but is still commonly used in parts of other parts of the world. This particular fetal-scope, while a very simple medical tool, helped make a difference in people’s lives at the Lord  Dufferin Hospital and during house calls. This alone makes it an important artifact. Yet, there is so much more to this artifact. It points to moments of significant challenge and change in Canadian society. The history of device’s inventor (Pinard), the I.O.D.E, and the Famous Five connect to the movements for suffrage and eugenics, two significant and controversial movements in Canadian history, which greatly broaden the significance of this artifact.


Photograph of Jessie May “Mazie” McQuarrie and Harry Ross Conlin, DCMA Collection: P-2614


This is a picture of Harry Conlin and His wife Mae. This might be their wedding photograph since Harry was in the military at this time and their wedding took place on November 4th, 1916. Note: Harry is in military uniform and Mae is wearing a winter coat and gloves suggesting it was cold outside.

Conlin marriage certificate
Marriage Certificate for Harry Ross Conlin and Mae McQuarrie, 1916.  Source: Ancestry.ca

Harry was born in East Garafraxa Township (Lot 11, Concession 11) on August 26th, 1892 to Thomas and Etta Conlin. Following their marriage (November 4, 1916), Harry and Mae lived in Belwood (Wellington County). On December 16th, 1915 at the age of 25, Harry joined enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Fergus, Ontario.

During the First World War, Harry served with the 153rd Battalion and saw action in the summer of 1918 with 18th Canadian Battalion. Over the course of his service, Harry held the ranks of private, lance corporal and corporal. Despite all the dangers he faced in the field, Harry’s life was taken by a sudden and deathly virus — the Spanish flu.

In late November of 1918, Harry took ill. On November 28, 1918 he was listed as “dangerously ill” and one day later he succumbed to the illness. The cause of death was broncho-pneumonia.

Conlin_service record_page11
An excerpt from page 11 of Harry Conlin’s WWI military service record. A note was made on Nov. 29, 1918 that Harry had died of Pneumonia cause be Influenza. Source: Library and Archives Canada
Conlin_service record_page34
An excerpt from page 34 of  Harry Conlin’s WWI military service record. Notes were made showing that on Nov. 28, 1918 Harry was “dangerously ill” with influenza and deceased on Nov. 29, 1918. Source: Library and Archives Canada

Harry was laid to rest at the Tournai Communal Cemetery in Hainaut, Belgium.

Canada has experienced five influenza pandemics in the course of its history (1890, 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009). In Canada, influenza causes an estimated 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths each year. Of all the pandemics, the flu known as “Spanish Influenza” was the most deadly and widespread.

The Spanish Flu pandemic was a strain of influenza A (H1N1), which can affect both humans and animals. It was brought into Canada primarily by returning troops and migrants. The pandemic killed approximately 20-50 million people worldwide, and approximately 30,000 to 50,000 Canadians in the three years between 1918 and 1920.

The Spanish Flu had a unique characteristic compared to other strains influenza. While most flu strains tend to affect the elderly and very young, the 1918 flu tended to affect youth and young adults like Harry. Unfortunately, life and work in the military likely contributed to fatigue, weakening Harry’s immune system and making him susceptible to contracting an illness.

Information collected from Ontario Death records focusing on Dufferin County suggests that at least 43 residents of Dufferin County were designated as having died specifically from Spanish Influenza. Note: This number may be higher as this number does not include those whose cause of death was recorded as “pneumonia”, “broncho-pneumonia” or “influenza”. While it is likely that these were all related to the Spanish Flu, it is not definitive. An newspaper article from the Orangville Banner on October 17, 1918 indicates that Dr. Campbell of Grand Valley and attended “upwards of 90 cases” of influenza in Amaranth Township alone!


The 1918 flu was well documented in local papers. On November, 1918, just before Harry got sick and died, the Orangeville Banner reported, “The Influenza epidemic continues unabated. Its ravages are not confined to this city or province or even to Canada, and cable reports indicate that it is rapidly spreading over the civilized world…” The article suggests that prevention by way of being in good shape and well nourished is the best way to stay health, but ends up being a sales pitch for Tanlac Laxative Tablets. It would appear that many news articles were “fear-mongering” in an attempt to peddle medicines (usually tablets) that were likely little more than a placebo.

The pandemic disrupted social norms and heavily impacted the economy as schools, churches and business shut down in attempt to contain the spread. The more sincere newspaper articles were advertisements placed by the Boards of Health representing the various Towns and Townships. They issued notices to alert the public of closures and other strategies intended to contain the spread. The outbreak placed a massive burden on hospitals, physicians and nurses. In rural areas like Dufferin County, with remote communities, it was difficult to get medical assistance. As the result, a call went out seeking volunteers for the Ontario Emergency Volunteer Health Auxiliary.

health aux
Source: Orangeville Banner, October 17, 1918. DCMA (microfilm).

Canadians had already suffered so much as the result of the war, so the ravages of the flu had merely added to their misery. By the time the flu ended, approximately 50,000 Canadians had died, most of whom were prime working age. Families were torn apart as children were left orphaned and families without a provider. The people who lived through these ordeals had endured extreme challenges and had to be resilient in a way we can scarcely imagine.


As terrible as the Spanish Influenza pandemic was, it had exposed the need for changes to Canada’s healthcare system. The 1918 Flu was directly responsible for the establishment of the Federal Department of Health to help the country deal with future epidemics on a national level. In addition, the pandemic allowed scientist to make headway in medical research so that we now have a better understanding of flu viruses, how they spread, and how they can be contained.

This year (2018) marks 100 years since the Spanish flu swept across the world. As a result, many historians and museums have turned their attention to the study of this significant event that profoundly challenged and changed Canadian lives. See this exhibit’s biography for suggested readings that will provide additional information on this topic.


Both of these artifacts represent significant new directions in healthcare across Canada that altered it for the better. The road to improvements, however, was paved with significant challenges.

Harry Conlin died of the spanish flu. His death along with millions of others, and the social and economic impact of the epidemic, forced scientist to research viruses and governments to new healthcare measures.

The fetal stethoscope was designed to be used on pregnant women, especially by doctors and midwives making house calls. Without guaranteed access to medical help, giving birth could be extremely dangerous for both the mother and their child. In addition, the fetal stethoscope relates to many different things such as women’s suffrage, eugenics, and socialized healthcare. The fetal stethoscope proves Canada had inconsistencies in healthcare. Before socialized healthcare was introduced, Canada lacked funding and equal accessibility.

These two artifacts have addressed many of the challenges and changes faced in Dufferin county and Canada. We hope you agree.




Fetal Stethoscope, DCMA Collection: A216-328

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Photograph of Jessie May “Mazie” McQuarrie and Harry Ross Conlin, DCMA Collection: P-2614

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