Indigenous Success Stories

Health (18-24)

Edith Anderson Monture of Six Nations was a woman of several firsts

June 24, 2024

1st First Nations nurse in Canada was also 1st Indigenous woman to vote in a federal election

A woman stands at a podium covered by a blanket holding a microphone in front of a flag.
Helen Moses spoke during opening ceremonies of Edith Monture Elementary School — named after her mom — in Brantford, ON, in June 2022 (Submitted by John Moses)

CBC Indigenous: Edith Anderson Monture was an ambitious and determined Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) woman from Six Nations of the Grand River who made history in several ways.

Born on April 10, 1890, in Six Nations, Monture was the first First Nations woman in Canada to become a nurse, the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the U.S. military, and the first Indigenous woman to vote in a federal election. 

Where Métis have always had the same legal rights to vote as non-Indigenous people, First Nations people with Indian status and Inuit were barred from voting in federal elections until the mid-20th century. A First Nations person could vote if they surrendered their Indian status under the Indian Act, or “enfranchised,” a process aimed at assimilation.

First Nations people got the right to vote without relinquishing their Indian status in 1960. Inuit got the right to vote in 1950 but had little access to election services. Polling stations were not in all Inuit communities until 1962.

But the Military Voters Act of 1917 allowed people on active service in the military of Canada or an ally, including women and people with Indian status, the right to vote in the 1917 federal election. As a wartime nurse, Monture became one of the first women, and the first Indigenous woman, to vote in a federal election.

Went to U.S. for school

Monture had to leave the country to get her nursing education.

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“There were not any nursing schools that she applied to that would take her because she was Native,” said Helen Moses, Monture’s daughter.

“She saw in the Brantford paper that they were advertising for student nurses in New Rochelle, N.Y., so she applied and she was accepted and that’s where she trained.”

Monture took the leap of faith and went to the school in New York state, completing her degree in 1914.

In 1917, the United States entered the First World War and Monture left her job as a public health nurse to volunteer with the American Expeditionary Force. She spent over a year based in Vittel, France, where she treated soldiers wounded by mustard gas and artillery.

“They weren’t right on the front lines… the wounded would be brought in by train,” Moses said.

“The patients that had been gassed, some of them were able to survive, but some of them did not.”

Vintage photo of a Kanien’kehá:ka woman in an army uniform
Edith Anderson Monture was born and raised at Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. She went to the U.S. for her nursing education and when the U.S. entered the First World War, she volunteered as a wartime nurse.(Submitted by Moses family)

Moses said her mother eventually returned to Six Nations, where she got married and raised a family.

“It wasn’t the end of her career, but you know, at that time, mothers stayed home more often than they do now,” she said.

Monture died in 1996, at the age of 105.

Despite her mother’s many firsts, Moses said she remembers her most as a mom.

“I’m sure she was the only one that I ever heard had done so much … I just didn’t think much about it one way or the other, she was just our mom and that was it,” she said.

She added that her mother’s accomplishments inspired her to become a nurse herself.

“I’m sure she was my inspiration to go into nursing. There was never any question when I was through high school what I was going to do,” she said.

“She was my mom.”


Edzi’u Loverin, Journalist

Edzi’u Loverin is a registered member of the Tahltan Nation, and a member of the Taku River Tlingit. They are part of the CBC News Indigenous Pathways program. Edzi’u is based out of Vancouver on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh). You can email Edzi’u at with story ideas.