Evelyn Fleming

Evelyn Fleming was born in 1900 to R.J. and Lydia Orford Fleming; their second last child. She, along with family members, visited many places in the world including China, Egypt, Chile, and India. India was the most notable of these as she stayed there to practice medicine.

Evelyn's Interview

Dr. Evelyn Fleming’s Radio Broadcast, as Miss Leslie Stowe’s guest over C.F.R.B Tuesday Nov. 24, 1942

Leslie Stowe:“I wish you would tell us of your own work in this old romantic land.”

Evelyn Fleming:“Thank you, Miss Stowe, you have given me a rather large order, I can only touch on it in the time at our disposal”

“My work is in a small mission hospital for women and children. We have just 80 beds, but with a medical staff that is very much smaller than a hospital of similar size in this country would have, we are kept very busy. Our staff consists of one other European doctor, a most capable young woman from London, England, and two Indian women doctors. Our Superintendent of nurses is a Canadian, a graduate of the Women’s collage Hospital in Toronto, another nursing sister is from St. Thomas Hospital in London England, and another from Birmingham. For some years we had a nursing sister from Denmark but unfortunately, when she was just ready to leave Copenhagen after her last furlong, her country was invaded by Germany, and she is still there. In addition to these we have a splendid staff of trained Indian nurses, fitting them to go out and serve their own people, is a necessary part of our contribution toward that independence that India is seeking now and which Britain is seeking to give her. The high standard of training in our hospital, receiving as it does Government recognition and praise, is due to our excellent Superintendant of nurses, Miss Gladys Holden, from this city.”

LS:“Just where is your hospital situated?”

EF:“It is in Western India, about 115 miles from Bombay City, a very beautiful part of the country surrounded by hills that rise several thousands of feet. We are, actually, 1800 feet above sea level and therefore our climate is dry and pleasant. During the monsoon, of course, we have rain, plenty f it, for in 3 and a half months we have as great a rainfall in our part as England has in a whole year. Everything then becomes transformed overnight and after several months of scorching heat, when the earth is baked and brown and dry, we waken to find it green again."

LS:“Has it got some unpronounceable name?”

EF:“No, the name of the place is quite easy. It is Nasik, N-A-S-I-K. The hospital id the Canadian Hospital, named so out of appreciation to the many Canadian friends who help towards its upkeep.”

LS“My your life must be a busy one. But is that not the only way to be really happy in India?”

EF:“Yes, it is Miss Stowe. I would not want to live in India unless I had definite occupation. We hear of the lure and glamour of the East, to me, the lure is in the crying needs of its peoples. The wives of Government officials come to us from time to time wanting to help, for they become aware of the utter futility of that that has no outlet beyond itself. “

LS:“In a hospital there is never a dull moment, I’m sure”

EF:“That is very true. In addition to the purely professional work within the hospital, we frequently have calls for help from distant villages. Nor are our patients human beings only. From time to time we treat dogs and cats and other animals that come our way! There is also the administration of the hospital, all that is necessary to keep the wheels in motion; book-keeping and letters, arrangements for supervision of nay building that must be done. Recently we installed modern sanitation in our hospitals and I do not think anyone in this country would have any idea of the amount of personal attention such an undertaking would require.

LS:“But the changes you have seen take place during the 13 years since you first went there must be rather drastic?”

EF:“I have seen many changes in many things, but in India with it’s ancient civilization old customs die hard, and there is still room for change. I have seen the uprising amongst the Untouchables or Outcasts of India, that section of the Hindu population number roughly 60 million individuals. There are now seeking some of the elemental rights of human beings that have been denied t them b those who fate had placed within the caste system of India. Centuries of oppression have bred in the Untouchables certain mass characteristics as for example, a fetal acquiescence in poverty and illiteracy, but now one from their midst has arisen. Dr. Ambedkhar who has studied in both America and England and who returned to his on land with the degrees of M.A. and Ph D. from Columbia University and M.Sc. and D.Sc from London University. In America and in England the problem of Untouchability is unknown and Dr. Ambedhar was received and honoured, but when he returned to his own country he was just an Untouchable again and in his office higher caste clerks, rather than approaching him, would throw his papers at him. This aroused his determination to champion the cause of the 60 million Outcastes of India." I have seen too in our own district the replacement of many European government officials by Indians. This has been taking place for some time as Britain has been endeavoring to place an increasing amount of responsibility on India themselves, in their own government."

LS:“Do the various castes and religions mingle when they come into your hospital for treatment?”

EF“Yes, they do. It seems to be taken for granted with us, though in Government hospitals it can’t be done. In our public wards I have seen a Brahmin woman, being the highest caste, lying in a bed next to the despised outcaste, and other casts and Mohammedans in other beds in the same ward. Of course a very orthodox high caste person would have a private room rather than be defiled by the propinquity of one whom gods have placed in a lower social category. With us they learn that in the sight of God there is neither Brahmin nor other caste nor outcast, but all are equal and they see themselves that each one receives the same loving care according to her need."

LS:“Having heard of child marriages and husbands not seeing their brides before marriages, do you find it most of them turn out satisfactory?"

EF:“A satisfactory marriage in India seems to depend on whether or not a woman produces sons. This is her primary obligation, for a Hindu must have a son to release his soul t the time of his death and to carry on the family traditions. I have seen happy marriages notwithstanding, but a woman’s position in the home is insecure if she has no son. On occasions, as amongst the Mohammedans, where a husband has not seen the face of his bride until the day of marriage, I myself, have heard some bitter complaints. A Moh. Said to me one day, in perfect English, his voice breaking with emotion, “Dr. Sahib, you know we do not see our wives before we marry them, and if I had ever seen her I never would have married her. The complaints are usually from the men, but my own observation is that many women have just cause for crying out loud bitterly too."