Skip to content

Play about wartime nurses returns to Museum of Surrey for International Women’s Day

‘Canadian Nurses In Wartime’ showcases the lives of three women
Ishbel Newstead (left) and Renee Sarojini Saklikar will perform the poem-play “Canadian Nurses In Wartime” March 9 at the Museum of Surrey in Cloverdale in celebration of International Women’s Day. (Photo: Submitted)

In celebration of International Women’s Day, the Museum of Surrey is once again hosting a “poem-play” about war-era nurses.

Canadian Nurses in Wartime will be performed 2 p.m. on March 9 in the museum’s theatre. After the performance refreshments will be served and the museum will host a Q&A with the presenters.

Written by Renee Sarojini Saklikar and researched by Ishbel Newstead, the reading will feature performances by the two women.

“A poem-play is a seated reading that incorporates historical research into the narrative,” Saklikar previously told the Cloverdale Reporter. “We take documentary work and we merge it with imagination.” She added that she uses poetic licence for dialogue, but not history.

Saklikar plays the role of an investigator while Newstead takes on the roles of three different nurses.

Comprised of three vignette scenes, the poem-play reenacts moments from the nurses’ wartime lives. They chose Margaret Mainwaring, Joan Doree, and Kay Christie as the nurses they profile.

Saklikar and Newstead have performed the poem-play in previous years at the Museum of Surrey on Remembrance Day.

Saklikar, a creative writing instructor at SFU and VCC, was Surrey’s poet-laureate from 2015 to 2018. She said she was commissioned by the Museum of Surrey to write the piece as a companion to an exhibit they were running on Nov. 11 in 2018.

“The poem-play reveals how nurses of the time felt about the things they saw and it shows how they did a lot for the war effort,” said Newstead. “They were rarely recognized for their efforts, they agonized over their work, and they had strict rules to follow.”

A retired teacher, Newstead said nurses in the war were RNs and, with that, came an officer’s rank. She also discovered during her research process that only white women were allowed to be nurses. “They had a strict profile to fit and lots of people weren’t allowed.”

Canadian Nurses in Wartime runs approximately 20 minutes. The theatre inside the Museum of Surrey seats about 50 people and visitors will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis.

The event is free to attend. The Museum of Surrey is located at 17710 56A Avenue in Cloverdale. To find out more info, contact the museum at 604-592-6956, or, or visit

Malin Jordan

About the Author: Malin Jordan

Malin is the editor of the Cloverdale Reporter.
Read more