BACKYARD HISTORY: November 11, 1946: SISTER KENNY VISITS ALEXANDRIA’S TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN REVOLUTIONARY WAR SOLDIER

On November 11, 1946, “Sister” Elizabeth Kenny, an acclaimed Australian nurse, visited Alexandria and paid her respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War soldier.

The revolutionary war soldier is buried in the graveyard of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, at 321 South Fairfax Street in Old Town, Alexandria.  An inscription reads, “Here lies a soldier of the Revolution whose identity is known but to God.”

Kenny had no formal training in nursing and gained her knowledge in medical care by volunteering at a small hospital in New South Wales in 1910.

Later, the self-appointed nurse worked from her home, riding long distances by horseback to care for those in need at no charge. During the first World War she enlisted in the Australian Nursing Service, and after the war ended, she patented the design of an ambulance stretcher that reduced the shock of transport to patients.

With the onset of the polio epidemic in the 1930’s, she promoted the radical concept that muscles of affected patients should be exercised, rather than immobilized, over strong objections from the medical profession. Ultimately her treatments proved successful, leading to the formal establishment of “physical therapy” as a rehabilitative procedure.

In 1946, the same year Kenny visited Alexandria, a film based on her struggle to convince the medical establishment that she had successfully developed a treatment for infantile paralysis, which starred Rosalind Russell. (Photo courtesy of IMDB)

(Source: Office of Historic Alexandria)