Pauline “Polly” Capelle (BASc(N) ’39)

Polly was born in North Battleford Saskatchewan on Sept 13, 1906. Three years later the family moved to Vancouver. She graduated from Burnaby South High School in 1922 and then attended the Provincial Normal School, graduating in 1923. She taught School in a small one-room school in Saskatchewan for five years. However, her dream was to have a university education so she returned to Vancouver where she enrolled at UBC taking the “double degree program” both a BA and a BaSc(N) program. During her years at UBC, she supported herself by doing everything from housework and babysitting to tutoring for room and board, graduating from VGH in 1938 and from UBC in 1939.

Following graduation, Polly was appointed supervisor with the Division of Venereal Disease Control in BC, responsible for the educational program for both undergraduate and post-graduate students. During WWII, she wanted to join to army, but could not be released from her position as it was deemed too important.

In 1944, Miss Evelyn Mallory, director of the UBC School of Nursing, offered her a position and she was appointed instructor and supervisor of public health nursing field work with a salary of $150/month. During this time, Polly took an active interest in nursing affairs, serving as secretary in the RNABC. Wishing to remain on the faculty, Polly knew she needed a master’s degree. Her first choice was public health but another faculty member, Ruth Morrison, already had a more senior position teaching public health nursing. In the early 1950s, based on the wishes of Evelyn Mallory, she pursued studies in paediatrics at the University of Chicago. She studied under well renowned nurse Florence Blake who offered her a job when she graduated, but out of a sense of loyalty to UBC, she turned it down. Over the years she maintained her friendship with Florence Blake. When reflecting on this decision she regretted making it as she experienced continuing friction between herself and Evelyn Mallory. In an article she stated “I for one, choose to remain in nursing, knowing that as long as we retain our sense of value we will achieve the better conditions for which we are striving and at the same time maintain our professional integrity.” Many students from the years 1950-1970 will remember her as their teacher of Human Growth and Development. Polly was a faculty member for 27 years, retiring in 1971. She died on April 8, 1991.

Written by Ethel Warbinek, BC History of Nursing Society