Memorable Manitobans: Jean Alexandrina Macdonald (1888-1969)
Born at Conon Bridge, Rosshire, Scotland on 11 March 1888, daughter of tailor Alexander Macdonald, she received her education at Dingwall Academy and emigrated to Canada with her sister Jessie, arriving at Halifax on 23 May 1908. She took her nursing education at the Winnipeg General Hospital and graduated in 1912. She was in charge of the operating room at Strathcona Hospital in Edmonton and then took a position at Queen’s University Hospital in Ontario. In 1916, she enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, where she served until 1918 as a nursing sister attached to the Number 7 Canadian General Hospital. She was decorated by the French government, receiving the Medalle D’Honneur for bravery in attending to civilians under fire.
The family legend, corroborated by an article in the Quanah Tribune Chief newspaper in Texas, is that she fell in love and eventually became engaged to a young Canadian soldier, Ronald Cochrane, who she nursed following the battle at Ypres in Belgium. Unfortunately, Cochrane was subsequently court-martialed and imprisoned for collapsing at his post after two continuous days of duty. Despite the fact that Jean was recovering in Canada from ill health caused by her work, she mounted a vigorous campaign for leniency. She returned overseas and received permission to marry Cochrane in prison. Because there was no precedent for such action, official sanction for the ceremony was granted on condition that the time and place of the marriage were not made public.
Following the First World War, she nursed in Mexico City, New York City, and Canada. She retired in 1940 and returned to Manitoba, living with a sister at Roblin. She died at Winnipeg on 26 November 1969 and was buried in the Roblin Community Cemetery.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 28 November 1969, page 30.
Obituary, Roblin Review, 4 December 1969, page 4.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
This page was prepared by Curt Belton, Sheila Dresen, and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 18 April 2022