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History

On the afternoon of October 12, 1908, Mary Agnes Snively was talking with a colleague about the difficulty of the process of giving life to a new national organization. She encouraged her friend, saying, “Do not forget that we are making history.” Representatives of 16 organized nursing bodies then met in Ottawa to form the Canadian National Association of Trained Nurses (CNATN). By 1911, CNATN comprised 28 affiliated member societies, including alumni associations of hospital schools of nursing as well as local and regional groups of nurses. By 1924, each of the nine provinces had a provincial nurse’s organization with membership in CNATN, and in that year, the national group changed its name to the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA).

One hundred years later, CNA took the opportunity to talk with colleagues and nurses across the country on October 12, 2008, about the challenges we still face, and CNA’s direction going forward. But rather than gathering face-to-face with a handful of colleagues, we connected electronically with thousands of nurses across the country on that historic day; it was our first national podcast. CNA was once again “making history.”

Canadian Nurses Association: One Hundred Years of Service is a chronicle of the history and achievements of CNA since its inception in 1908. The main narrative is supported by an extensive collection of documents that record CNA’s history and other major nursing, health and societal events taking place in the world around CNA.

CNA wrote its first organizational history, The Leaf and the Lamp [PDF, 11.7 MB], in 1968. Since then, it has recorded key milestones by publishing The Seventh Decade [PDF, 5.1 MB] (1969-1980), The Eighth Decade [PDF, 224 KB] (1981-1989) and Strengthening the Voice — The Ninth Decade of the Canadian Nurses Association [PDF, 3.1 MB] (1990-1999).

The Tenth Decade: Into A New Century, the latest in the series, highlights CNA’s leadership and achievements from 2000 to 2009. Included in the document are major themes of CNA’s work, its successes, areas of growth and challenge, and key messages for the organization’s future evolution.

In 2000, CNA signed a historic agreement with the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum and the National Archives of Canada to establish a national nursing history collection. Materials originally held at CNA House form the core collection, a rich repository that tells the story of the nursing profession in Canada.

In 2008, CNA celebrated 100 years of leadership. Many activities took place during CNA’s centennial year to mark how the organization had become the national voice of registered nurses in Canada.

CNA is now a federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing 148,992 registered nurses.

CNA continues to advance the preservation and interpretation of nursing history by endorsing and supporting the Museum of Health Care at Kingston, housed in the Ann Baillie Building, a national historic site commemorating the history of nursing in Canada. The museum strives to connect visitors with the experiences of people in past times. It provides context and perspective on nursing, other health-care disciplines and on today’s health issues.