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Many Anglicans in the Diocese will know the name Pickett-Scovil, but did you ever wonder who these people were?

In our Diocese, the Pickett-Scovil Memorial Fund, administered by the Anglican Church Women (ACW), assists retired clergy and widow(ers) with dental and medical expenses not covered by medical plans and Medicare.

Elizabeth Scovil, a nurse, started the fund in 1910 with friend and fellow nurse Lucy Vail Pickett, and it is still dispensing grants to this day. In fact, in the past year, it gave out more than $34,000 to retired clergy in need.

The fascinating life of this nurse, author, teacher, editor and Anglican has been chronicled in a book by Scovil’s grandniece, Virginia Bliss Bjerkelund, called A Nurse For All Seasons: Elizabeth Robinson Scovil 1849-1934, published by Woodstock's Chapel Street Editions late last year.

The publisher describes the book this way: “A Nurse for All Seasons is the vocational and intellectual biography of this remarkable woman, a woman who strode out of the Victorian Era on a mission that helped open the way for the feminist movement and the rise of gender equality as a fundamental human right.”

Elizabeth came from Anglican and Loyalist stock, and was born in 1849 in Saint John. She lived a privileged life until the bankruptcy of her father, which forced the Scovils to flee in disgrace to her mother’s family home in Douglas, near Fredericton. The family later inherited a homestead Elizabeth named Meadowlands, in Lower Jemseg.

The typical life of a woman in the late 19th century — marriage and motherhood — was unappealing to Elizabeth. Instead, at the age of 29, she enrolled in the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Training School for Nurses. Upon graduation, she ran the infirmary at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H. After eight years there, she became superintendent of nursing at the Newport Hospital in Rhode Island. But nursing was simply a springboard to many more endeavours.

The Mass General Research Institute, in an article on its history, described Elizabeth as “a pioneer for work as a writer and advocate for nurses, mothers and children.” 

In fact, while she was still a student, she wrote an article on “Domestic nursing” published in Scribner’s Monthly. With nursing still in its infancy, stories about the new profession were welcome, and Elizabeth went on to pen dozens of articles for various periodicals over the ensuing decades.

That initial writing success led to the authoring of 24 known books, which dealt with nursing, parenting, children, nutrition and spiritual guidance.

Probably her most groundbreaking work was called Preparation for Motherhood, published in 1894, which clearly and matter-of-factly dealt with such taboo topics as conception, pregnancy and childbirth.

The Mass General Research Institute article said, “Scovil emphasizes the importance of honest and open communication about the childbearing process. ‘If mothers talked frankly yet modestly with their daughters, first informing themselves and then teaching their children some of the great central facts of life, there would be less unhappiness, suffering and ill health.’”

In 1903, when her sister-in-law died, Elizabeth gave up her active nursing career in the U.S. and moved to Meadowlands to help raise her five nieces and nephews, alongside her brother, Morris.

There, she continued her writing and advocacy work in her nursing field and in women’s advancements in such things as voting.

Because of her wise investments over the years, she was a millionaire, and it was this fact that allowed her to travel the world, and to create the Pickett-Scovil Fund that continues to bless retired clergy and their spouses to this day.

You can read more about Elizabeth Scovil in two book by her grandniece, Virginia Bliss Bjerkelund:  A Nurse For All Seasons: Elizabeth Robinson Scovil 1849-1934 and Meadowlands: A Chronicle of the Scovil Family. Both are available from Chapel Street Editions ( ). They are also available at Westminster Books in Fredericton, Dog Eared Books in Oromocto, and Memories and Elephants Craft Shop in Gagetown.

The links below were used as sources for this article. Thanks to David Bell for the story suggestion.


1. The cover of a book by Elizabeth Scovil's grandniece, Virginia Bliss Bjerkelund, called A Nurse For All Seasons: Elizabeth Robinson Scovil 1849-1934. It was published by Chapel Street Editions in Woodstock.

2. Elizabeth Scovil during her nursing career. Photo courtesy of

3.  Author Virginia Bliss Bjerkelund. Photo courtesy of Peter Bjerkelund, Virginia's son.

4. Virginia Bliss Bjerkelund's second book about her great aunt, called Meadowlands: A Chronicle of the Scovil Family. Published By Chapel Street Editions in Woodstock.

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