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Ethel Blanche Ridley, nurse, was born in 1872 in Belleville, Ontario to father Charles Neville Ridley [1825?-1892?], physician, and to mother Elizabeth Ridley [b. 1838]. She entered St. Hilda’s College, University of Trinity College, Toronto, in 1891 and graduated with a B.A. in 1895. She enrolled as a nurse-in-training in New York. By 1897 she was a registered nurse and in 1898 and 1899 she served as a nurse with the United States Army in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.
In 1900 she joined the staff of the “Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled” (later New York Orthopaedic Hospital) and served until the outbreak of the First World War. Ridley returned to Canada in August 1914 and on 16 September was appointed nursing sister in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (C.A.M.C.). She was stationed at Valcartier, Quebec, for basic training and was promoted to Matron of the No. 2 Canadian Stationary Hospital of the C.A.M.C.
On 22 September 1914 she sailed on the “Franconia” to England. From 1914 to 1919 she served at a number of military hospitals. She was stationed at Le Touquet, France from 7 November 1914 to 20 November 1915, and at hospitals in England, including Granville Canadian Special Hospital at Ramsgate and Buxton between 1916 and 1917. She was subsequently stationed at the Canadian Head Quarters of the Lines of Communication in France in 1918. Ridley was made Matron, Principal Matron, and Matron-in-Chief of the Canadian military nursing staff and received several decorations, including the Star (1914), the Royal Red Cross (1916). She was mentioned in dispatches and appointed Commander, Order of the British Empire in 1918, receiving the C.B.E. in 1919 at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace. She retired from military service later that year.
In 1920, Ridley returned to New York City and rejoined the New York Orthopaedic Hospital, serving as Directress of Nurses from 1924-1942. In 1944 Ridley returned to Canada and settled in Gananoque, Ontario, where she died in 1949.
[Source: George E. Mills, nephew of Ethel Blanche Ridley; A. H. Young, W. A. Kirkwood, eds. The War Memorial Volume of Trinity College, Toronto (Toronto: Printers Guild, 1922); David B. Levine, “The Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled: William Bradley Coley, Third Surgeon-in- Chief, 1925-1933,” HSS Journal 4.1 (2008), 1–9.]