Grenfell, Sir Wilfred Thomason

Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, medical missionary (b at Parkgate, Eng 28 Feb 1865; d at Charlotte, Vt 9 Oct 1940). Grenfell entered the London Medical School in 1883 and 2 years later was converted to active CHRISTIANITY at a tent meeting of American evangelist Dwight L. Moody. In 1888 he followed the suggestion of one of his teachers, Sir Frederick Treves, that he join the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. He was made superintendent in 1889 and for 3 months in 1892, at the mission's request, cruised the Newfoundland and Labrador coast where 30,000 stationers, 3300 "livyers" (permanent settlers) and 1700 Inuit received only an annual visit from one government doctor. Grenfell treated 900 patients and saw a great opportunity for medical and missionary work. He raised funds to open the first hospital at Battle Harbour in 1893. Grenfell was a forceful speaker and easily gained the friendship of influential men. His medical mission grew rapidly with hospital, orphanage and nursing stations and the first co-operatives in Newfoundland. Grenfell did not winter in the North until 1899 and spent comparatively few winters there, establishing his headquarters at ST ANTHONY, Nfld. A prolific writer and forceful publicist, he often used artistic licence in accounts of life on the northern coasts. His main financial support came from the US. In 1909 he married a Chicago heiress, Anne MacClanahan, who took him away from life on the coast. Growing friction with the mission eventually led to a split, and the International Grenfell Assn was incorporated in 1912. The practical medical work of the IGA was carried on by dedicated if autocratic doctors, while Grenfell became increasingly involved in fund raising. He was made CMG in 1906 and KCMG in 1927, the year in which he retired to Vermont. Famous in his lifetime, he is now largely forgotten; his papers are in the Yale medical history library.