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The Nurses Apron Partnership

Avis Smith and aprons

Posted: 27 April 10

One of the great joys of this venture into apron-ology has been the opportunity to meet some wonderful new friends. Among my treasured new friends is Dr. Avis Smith, formerly a hospital-based pharmacist in Australia and for the past twenty-odd years, an artist. Beginning in 1990, Avis first pursued a four-year Bachelor of Visual Arts degree at the South Australian School of Visual Arts within the University of South Australia, then completed a Masters and more recently (2009) a Doctor of Philosophy degree (at age 80), with a specialty in the history of china painting by women in South Australia. I have never met Avis in person, although my son and daughter-in-law met her and her dear husband, Ron, in late December, 2009, when they honeymooned in Adelaide.

Recently, Avis sent me two gifts—the attached photo of herself with Ron at her PhD graduation, and an artist’s lino-cut print made by her, the image and story of which I will share in a later posting. Regarding the photo, in her words, “My own interest in aprons continues and …I blithely decided that I would wear an apron (to graduation) as I had done when I gained my Masters degree. The black laced-edge apron had a bottom border of embroidered fabric which is visible in the photo, and has an interesting history. It was given to me by a woman now known as Teresa Lawrance, who trained as a nurse in the Royal Adelaide Hospital some years ago. Teresa was born in the Ukraine, Russia, and changed her Russian name after the 1939-45 war. During the war when the Germans started to invade Russia, Teresa’s father was abruptly removed from their home and put into the Russian army, and never heard of again.

The German and Russian armies fought back and forth over that area of the Ukaraine. Teresa then aged 5, and her mother in her 20’s, were put into trucks, deported to Germany, and made to work on a German SS officer’s farm. The German’s name was, surprisingly, Wilhelm Makintosh. His son and son-in-law both died fighting on the Russian front. Wilhelm’s wife and daughter, Elizabet, ran the farm and, said Teresa, treated them and the forced Polish and French farm labourers well, provided that they followed all given instructions. Teresa folded ironing, weeded the garden, learnt to knit and make socks and had freedom to roam an adjoining forest with the farm dog.

After the war ended, Teresa’s mother, who feared the Russians, joined the Poles and shifted into a Polish camp in the British zone. As a parting gesture, the Makintosh women gave this apron to her mother. Because it was a small item, her mother was able to take it with her in the subsequent shifts around Europe till they reached Italy, and eventually arrived in an American troop carrier “General Stewart” at Port Adelaide. Her mother became a domestic in one of the Adelaide hospitals, and Teresa trained as a nurse. Her mother passed the apron on to Teresa, who gave it to me after she had heard me speak on aprons when I opened an apron art exhibition in South Australia in 2007. I was deeply touched and thought it fitting as an ‘art historian’, to wear that apron at my PhD graduation. I date the apron as made in Germany c. 1880-90’s.”

I am so pleased to pass on this story in 2010.
Ginger Manley, Founder
The Nurses’ Apron Partnership

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