Mrs. Ruth Fortune and Mary Pack

Pioneering Women

Mrs. Ruth Fortune


Mrs. Ruth Fortune has played a huge role in the physiotherapy community in British Columbia (BC) and across Canada. She is fondly known as one of BC’s pioneering Physiotherapists and has been recognized as one of 25 of History’s Greatest Physios. She was an active member of the Association, then known as the BC Branch of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. Mrs. Ruth Fortune was also one of the founders of Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society (C.A.R.S.) and later changed to the Arthritis Society. C.A.R.S was largely responsible for bringing Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy to patients throughout the province of BC.

Mrs. Ruth Fortune's name appears frequently in the Vancouver Division History 1927-1968, written by Hazel Southard. Brenda Tillotson wrote a wonderful tribute to Mrs. Ruth Fortune which she read out at the Remembering Ruth Memorial in 2012. It includes stories about her work for the Association. She was also made a Life Member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA).

Read Remembering Ruth by Brenda Tillotson.

Accolades for Mrs. Ruth Fortune. 

Click on photo gallery below. 

Mary Pack

Mary Pack was not a physiotherapist, but rather an entrepreneur and activist for people suffering from Arthritis. As a consequence of seeing both her mother and pupil suffer so badly, Mary went on to form the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society (C.A.R.S.) in British Columbia. Mary Pack was the Executive Director of C.A.R.S. from 1948 to 1969, expanding the treatment (nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and social work) and designated facilities for patients with Arthritis across the province of BC. As was said, she moved a mountain with a very small spade.

Operation Bluebird

Because of BC’s vast geographical regions, the C.A.R.S Physiotherapists worked in several small communities closer to a larger centre and were given a C.A.R.S. car to drive. The Bluebird was the C.A.R.S symbol and the cars with the logo on the side were easily recognized in the local communities. The fleet of C.A.R.S became known as Operation Bluebird. In addition, there were no "Handy Dart" cabs at the time so volunteers would drive patients to their physiotherapy appointments.

Photo with cras


Mary Pack was recognized for her valuable contributions by the following awards:

  • 1953 International Honorary Member of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority
  • 1953 Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
  • 1956 Native Sons of British Columbia Good Citizen Award
  • 1967 Canadian Centennial Medal
  • 1967 Honorary President, Canadian Physiotherapy Association
  • 1969 Honorary Life Member, British Columbia Hospitals Association
  • 1973 Honorary Life Member of the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society
  • 1974 Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of British Columbia

Mary Pack also authored a book titled Never Surrender and she was an important player in the establishment of the Vancouver Arthritis Centre (renamed the Mary Pack Arthritis Centre in 1994) Read more in the Arthritis Newsletter Spring 2012

Early Experiences of being a C.A.R.S. Physiotherapist in 1953-4

Written by Margaret Pollard 2015

Read Margaret's memoir of her early experiences of being a C.A.R.S physiotherapist  

Remembering Ruth

Ruth Fortune was a life member of CPA and played a major role in the development of Physiotherapy in B.C. Brenda Tillotson wrote a celebratory memoir about Ruth titled "Remembering Ruth" which so respectfully and sincerely describes her influence throughout her career. This was also where the foundations of the Physiotherapy History of British Columbia (PTHBC) began. 

Read more about Where the History Project Began

Remembering Ruth

C.A.R.S. PT in PRINCE GEORGE 1956-1976

Written by Hilary Crowley CARS physio 1971-1973

Hilary Crowley is a physiotherapist living in Summit Lake, north of Prince George, BC, and is strongly dedicated to international and rural health. Hilary has traveled near and far, donating her time and expertise, providing much-needed service to remote areas. She is highly respected amongst her peers and a well-known advocate for the physiotherapy profession. She is also the author of 'Footsteps to Freedom' - Tales of Therapy in Rural India. Hilary has been an active member of the physiotherapy Association of BC for nearly 50 years.

Hilary has contributed to the Physiotherapy History of BC with 'C.A.R.S. PT in PRINCE GEORGE 1956-1976' which includes a brief personal history and more from:

  • Julia Serup (Reid) 1956-1958
  • Val Donavan (Black) 1968 -1970
  • Sheila Datoff (Silcock) 1970-1971
  • Sue Bond (Shaw) 1974-1976

 Read more here

Fun Fact

Did you Know?

In 2019, the International Physiotherapy History Association (IPHA) called for nominations from the global physiotherapy community to determine history's greatest physios. The top ten Greatest Physios include Enid Graham from Canada.

Mrs. Fortune also made the top 25! She was a shortlisted nominee along with other outstanding individuals. 

Read more