Augusta Edith Ariss, was born in Guelph, Ontario in 1871 (or in 1877, there are discrepancies in the record), and graduated from the Toronto (Methodist) Deaconess Home and Training School in 1900. She was the 6th of 7 children born to Richard Ariss and Margaret May Smith. (Family Information) They were married in Elora, Ontario on November 10, 1860. Their eldest daughter, Sarah, was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1862. This American connection may account for Augusta’s departure for Grand Falls, Montana two years after her graduation.
Prior to attending the Deaconess school Augusta graduated from the Guelph General Hospital Nursing school as a Registered Nurse. Her first probationary Deaconess appointment was as a nurse, likely at the Fred Victor Mission, where she continued to work after her licensing as a Methodist Deaconess in 1900. She did “rescue work” what we would now associate with street ministry: dealing with those who are homeless, including children, men and prostitutes. She was known for peddling around the slums of inner city Toronto in her 3 wheeled bicycle. When Augusta was sent, initially on loan for two years, to the fledgling Methodist hospital in Grand Falls she likely had no understanding that she would make that hospital setting the locus of a successful career. (photo of her in nursing uniform) She was eventually made an honourary graduate of the nursing school that she started in 1905. She served as Superintendent of the Hospital and School for over 30 years.
Through the American Methodist Deaconess Order a number of hospitals were founded and staffed. At the Montana hospital the influence of its church ownership was felt. Augusta inspired people to strive to make the hospital a success, but she had expectations too. The nurses had to attend daily chapel at 7 am prior to going on duty, and there was a daily hymn sing at 7 pm. In 1917, she wrote in her annual report, “the object of training schools in general may be said to be the training of nurses for service in their profession; the object of the Montana Deaconess Hospital is training nurses for CHRISTIAN service.”
Augusta died of a heart attack on January 9, 1952.
This biography of Augusta Ariss by Suzanne Waring, The Indefatigable Augusta Ariss*, outlines her remarkable career.
*From the Best of Great Falls, 2012 edition, reproduced courtesy of The Best of Great Falls, www.bestofgreatfalls.com
The photo (up and left) is courtesy of Great Falls First United Methodist Church, c/o Suzanne Waring.
For more detail the Deaconess influence in the American west see: Pierce C. Mullen, Frontier Nursing: The Deaconess Experience in Montana, 1890–1960, in Disease And Medical Care In The Mountain West: Essays On Region, History, And Practice by Martha L. Hildreth and Bruce T. Moran, 1998.