Woman of the Week, Mrs. Kathleen McCoan, Evening Telegram, 1947, March 1, p.9
A graduate of the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital, Boston, Mrs. Kathleen McCoan began Child Welfare work in 1922.
In 1925, she was married in Long Island, New York, to an English aviator, who was killed four years later in California, after which Mrs. McCoan returned to St. John’s and resumed work with the Child Welfare Association. She has one son, now nineteen, who is at present with air force at Weisbaden, Germany.
In 1934, Mrs. McCoan was transferred to the Department of Public Health and Welfare, where she was put in charge of the clinic. In July, 1945, she was assigned the position of Superintendent of Child Welfare.
“The Child Welfare,” Mrs. McCoan recalled, “really goes back as far as 1917, when Mr. Gosling, then Mayor of St. John’s, donated the salary he received for that office to provide a visiting nurse for the city. Three years later, the Child Welfare centre was formerly opened, in the old Public Health Centre on Duckworth Street, now the Imperial Optical Company. The Centre was run by a committee of ladies who gave very generously of their time and money. After all these years, and in spite of innumerable obstacles, they are still carrying on.”
In July, a municipal grant was paid the Association, which is closely associated with the government. The latter provides two nurses and a doctor, and co-operates with the Association in every possible way.
Speaking of her work, Mrs. McCoan said, “We confine ourselves to children of pre-school age, from birth to five years, regardless, of course, of class or creed. Our work is now wholly educational and preventative, but when I first started, there were no district nurses, and we were called upon to give all kinds of treatments.”
“We are always pleased to go into any home, give advice on children’s feedings, help solve any problems that we can. The work is brimful of interest, with never a dull moment. More than that, the work is of vital importance to the welfare of any country. We all know that healthy, well-trained babies today means strong, active citizens tomorrow.”
“We get the odd kick of course, but on the whole we get splendid support. We work a great deal among the underprivileged classes. We are now able to give a special carbonate lamp treatment for children with rickets, or who do not get sufficient sunshine. It’s a real pick-me-up for them, given, of course, under the doctor’s orders.”
Clinics are held at the Child Welfare Centre, Queen’s Road, twice a week, once a week at St. Mary’s Hall, Canon Wood Hall; also in the foster homes and at Blackhead Road, Blackmarsh Road, Mundy Pond, Quidi Vidi, Cuckold’s Cove, as well as the out-of-town clinics at Petty Harbour, Bauline, Portugal Cove.
Realizing the value of social get-togethers as a means to better understanding, the Mother’s Club
has been formed under the auspices of the Association, and once a week finds the mother’s congregated, busily sewing and knitting, whilst listening to lectures on first aid, home nursing, nutrition, or watching an educational film.
The Association is also a distribution depot for milk in necessitous cases, which is given out for babies in regulated formulas. Cod liver is also distributed free of charge. A large number of needy families are given help, and the Association is always grateful for any donations of clothing from the public. Layettes are made at the Centre and are given out to new born babies. “The cupboard,” says Mrs. McCoan, “is pretty bare now.”
“We give needy children hospitalization when necessary, Mrs. McCoan pointed out, “and the hospitals are always most co-operative. We have been fortunate the past year in getting these children almost immediate hospitalization.”
“Summertime, we have our outings in the country, and we always have a Christmas party for the children, with a tree and gifts. Our sources of revenue are the cent-a-day boxes, our tag day, jumble sales, Christmas Seals, together with various contributions, of course.”
“We now have four nurses and a clinic secretary, and student nurses from the Department of Public Health and Welfare take a month’s post-graduate work with us. We are helping to link up with the Public Health nurses, to help them in their work of immunizing children of pre-school age, against contagious diseases.”
“As we showed at our annual meeting, we just about doubled our clinics and home visits. This year we know we could do more with a bigger staff, but funds do not permit. However, we do our best at all times, and we always like to see visitors to the clinic at any time, to see the work we are doing here.”