British nurse Edith Cavell was executed on October 12, 1915 for helping Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium. Her death became a rallying cry for the Allies.
The Edith Cavell Memorial Society in Toronto raised money for a memorial to Cavell and Canadian nurses, and sought permission from the Toronto General Hospital to place it on the hospital grounds at the SE corner of College and University Avenues. Florence Wyle was chosen to design the sculpture.
The October 1919 issue of Saturday Night reported on a monument to “commemorate not only Edith Cavell … but the thirty-six Canadian nurses who were victims of the war. The general design will take the form of a triple arch and the side panels will contain the names of the dead nurses.” The story showed Wyle’s study of the “a life size bas relief in bronze” and listed Darling and Pearson as the architects.
Installation was approved by the hospital board in May 1921. A 1921 photo shows the panel in place, nicely framed in a stone arch. A plaque is dedicated “in memory of Edith Cavell and the Canadian nurses who gave their lives for humanity in the Great War. In the midst of darkness they saw light.” I can find no evidence of the side panels of nurses’ names. In 1922, the Italian Canadian Society added a small plaque, for reasons that remain a mystery.
The monument was moved in 2004 to 585 University Ave between College and Gerrard St W, outside the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre of Toronto General Hosptial. Who thought putting in on a concrete slab was a good idea?