Fonds . - Helena F. Reimer fonds

Portrait of Helena Reimer Helena Reimer at Government House receiving Order of Canada Helena Reimer at Government House receiving Order of Canada Helena Reimer at Government House receiving Order of Canada Helena Reimer with her sister Neta Toews Helena Reimer's Retirement, Montreal 1969 Helena Reimer's Retirement, Montreal 1969 Helena Reimer making a speech at her retirement Helena Reimer's Retirement, Montreal 1969 Helena Reimer's Retirement, Montreal 1969
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Helena F. Reimer fonds


  • 1928-1987 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

21 cm of textual records
155 photographs

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Helena Friesen Reimer (1905-1993) was born in Steinbach, Manitoba, the first child to Abraham and Margaretha (Friesen) Reimer. Helena received her Manitoba Teacher's Certificate in 1928 after achieving the highest marks in the province on her Education Entrance Examination. Helena taught for several years but again took up studies, receiving her R.N. (Registered Nurse) from Winnipeg General Hospital in 1937 where she held various positions ranging from nurse to instructor and supervisor. In 1944 Helena Reimer began her first in a series of overseas nursing assignments at a refugee camp in the Middle East under the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration). She spent two years at the camp, after which her assignment was transferred to Formosa, China (Taiwan) from 1946-1948. Helena then returned to Winnipeg for a few years where she was the Assistant Superintendent of Nursing at Winnipeg General Hospital. During this time she worked to complete her B.N. (Bachelor of Nursing) from McGill in 1951. Helena resumed her work overseas with the WHO (World Health Organization) in 1951 as a Senior Nurse Educator in Cambodia. In 1953 Helena transferred to Egypt and helped to found a Nursing Education Institute as part of the University of Alexandria. She worked there as an educator and administrator until 1956. After contracting a tropical disease, Helena had to return to Canada where she recovered and was able to earn her M.A. (Masters of Arts) from the University of Chicago in 1957 in the field of nursing administration. In 1958 Helena accepted a position with the Order of Nurses of the province of Quebec. Montreal soon became her home and she remained there until her retirement in 1970. Helena enjoyed her work as Secretary-Registrar (Executive Director) and the challenge of bilingualism; she made many friendships during her years with the Order of Nurses of Quebec. Upon retirement Helena moved back to Manitoba where she lived in Winnipeg and kept active taking courses, teaching English to refugees, and volunteering with the elderly. In 1974 Helena received both an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg, and the high honour of the Order of Canada for over 30 years of dedication to nursing in Canada and abroad. Helena passed away in Steinbach on May 16, 1993 after months of severe illness.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The material that was donated in 2009 has come from Helena's sister, E. Regina Reimer in 2009. Historian Susan Armstrong-Ried of Guelph Ontario borrowed additional materials from the family with the understanding she would deposit them at this archive when she was done with them. She did this in 2016 and represent photos (36-155) and textual materials in part 3.

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Scope and content

This fonds contains reports and correspondence from Helena's various assignments with the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) and WHO (World Health Organization), as well as University reports and assignments, correspondence from her hears in Montreal, and other notes and documents. Also included are several newspaper clippings or articles, a small collection of photographs, and many interesting documents such as diplomas, certificates and travel identification.

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  • English
  • French

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More of Helena's materials, including her Order of Canada medal, are at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, MB.

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Publication note

Helena is featured in Susan Armstrong-Reid and David Murray. "Armies of Peace: Canada and the UNRRA Years." University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 2008.

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Accession numbers 2009-038, 2009-053, 2016-046

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