Ross, Flora Amelia
b. 1842
d. 1897-11-02
Flora Amelia Ross was born in 1842 on San Juan Island to Charles and Isabella Ross. She married a man who was a rowdy — ignorant — hoodlum and who often abused her. She left and divorced him in 1870 through the courts of Washington Territory before divorce was truly legal. Subsequently, she changed her name back to her family name and informally changed the name of her son of whom she took sole custody.1
In the year of her divorce, Ross was appointed matron of the Victoria jail. Her position primarily consisted of looking after three women lunatics. In October 1872, she moved to the newly opened Provincial Lunatic Asylum, which was located on the Songhees Reserve.2
Ross remained in Victoria until 1878 when the asylum moved to New Westminster; she and her son also moved there. During her position as matron at the new asylum in New Westminster, she often suffered racism and harassment from her supervisors and co-workers. In 1874, the superintendent of the asylum, E. A. Sharpe, demanded Ross's resignation — she refused. She was subsequently accused of insubordination, theft, infractions on asylum rules, and visiting 'half-breeds.'3 Throughout the harassment and racialization she received, she continued to stand-up for herself and the women deemed ‘half-breeds.' She never lost her position and Sharpe was dismissed.
Ross was entirely self-taught on the subject of mental therapeutics and known for using the minimum of mechanical restraints on her women patients compared to what was used on male patients. She never used regular straight-jackets on her patients because they caused asphyxiation of the person wearing them. When she was asked about this practice, she replied: if my medical superintendent was to order me to put one on my patients [...] I should deliberately and cooly disobey him.4
Ross was very successful in her position, by 1893 she had four assistant matrons and 41 patients under her supervision. In 1897, she became ill with cancer, after several months of sickness she died, on 2 November 1897, at the asylum that she had dedicated her life.5 After her death, the majority of Ross's assets went towards the Church of England, her female friends, and her patients. Flora Amelia Ross was a divorced-single working mother as well as a hardworking and giving person.6
  • 1. Mary-Ellen Kelm, Ross, Flora Amelia (Hubbs), Dictionary of Canadian Biography; Introduction, Flora Amelia Ross: A Brief Biography.
  • 2. Kelm, Ross, Flora Amelia (Hubbs).
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.; Introduction, Flora Amelia Ross.
Mentions of this person in the documents
People in this document

Ross, Isabella

Places in this document

New Westminster

San Juan Island


Washington Territory