Ada Janet Ross was born in Toronto, Ontario on August 11, 1867, the daughter of Joseph and Margaret Ross. Her family included older sister, Elizabeth, and younger brother, Waldon. The family moved from Toronto to Port Arthur, Ontario where her father worked as a carpenter.
In the mid-1890s, they relocated to Winnipeg. Joseph Ross died in 1899 and Ada and her mother lived with Elizabeth and her husband, William Alexander Brown, a railway conductor.
Ada enrolled in the Winnipeg General Hospital School of Nursing and graduated in 1905 when she was 34 years old. From 1908 to 1912 she was Lady Superintendent of Selkirk Hospital before undertaking a six month post-graduate course at the Women’s Hospital in New York, which she completed in July 1912.
World War I began in August 1914; Ada enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps in May 1915, at the age of 47; she traveled to England on the SS Hesperian, along with 90 other nurses. They arrived in Liverpool on May 10 – two months later she was posted to the No. 1 Canadian General Hospital in Etaples, France where she served for two years.
In August 1917, she was transferred to the Ontario Military Hospital, Orpington (No. 16 Canadian General Hospital). That same month she visited Canada while on transport duty where she visited family and friends in Winnipeg. A tea was held in her honour by the Nurses’ Alumnae Association on September 17, 1917 where she gave a talk about her experiences as a nursing sister, which was later printed in the Alumnae Journal.
“Miss Ross gave a most interesting account of her experiences, her description of the treatment of wounds being exceedingly good. The gas used in the enemy’s shells in a dreaded complication. So quickly is the inflammation set up and spread that in four hours amputation of a limb may be necessary. Miss Ross said surgical supplies were plentiful; the only article they were ever short of was cotton batting for padding splints, etc. A large part of Miss Ross’ time has been spent in the No. 1 General Hospital, France, in the surgical wards. The work is now more systematized and the long hours and disturbed nights are largely of the past, there being sufficient night sisters and orderlies to attend to fresh convoys. The work of the sisters seems to be confined to the dressing of wounds. he orderlies are trained to attend to all else. Our members overseas Miss Ross reports as generally in good health.”
[Excerpt from Nurses’ Alumnae Journal – Alumnae Notes, Oct 1917]
Nursing sister Ross returned to England in late September and was re-posted to the Ontario Military Hospital, Orpington. Six months later, in February 1918, she was transferred to the Canadian Special Red Cross Hospital in Buxton, Derbyshire. It was there that she became ill with tuberculosis and in June 1918 she was admitted to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital for Nursing Sisters in Northwood, Buxton. It was recommended that she be sent home to Canada, however her illness progressed rapidly and she died on July 12, 1918 from tuberculosis, peritonitis and pleurisy.
A full military funeral for Ada Janet Ross was held on July 18, 1918 at St. John’s Church with Rev. Major Hooper, Chaplain to the Canadian forces in Buxton, officiating. Her casket was draped with the Union Jack and floral tributes were set on the gun carriage. Six Canadian officers acted as pallbearers, along with 60 officers, 150 nursing sisters and soldiers forming the procession to Buxton Cemetery, Derbyshire, where she was laid to rest.