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135th anniversary of Woman’s Medical College

October 1, 2018

By Katie Fraser

October 1 marks an important milestone in medical history - the 135th anniversary of Woman’s Medical College.

In the 19th century, it was nearly impossible for women in Canada to become doctors because most medical schools would not allow them to enroll. Additionally, very few medical practitioners specialized in women’s health.

After being forced to leave Canada for her own schooling, Dr. Emily Stowe began tackling the barriers limiting women’s access to medical education. On October 1, 1883, she officially opened the doors to Woman’s Medical College - Canada’s first medical school for women.

Woman’s Medical College laid the foundations from which Women’s College Hospital (WCH) was later established. It not only provided women with access to medical training, but also became a leader in women’s health - a legacy that WCH continues to build on to this day.

During its 22-year history, the medical college saw 128 women graduate and pave the way for a new generation of women in medicine. Notable graduates include:

  • Dr. Ida Lynd (class of 1890) – first WCH chief of medicine
  • Dr. Pearl Smith Chute (class of 1895) –  the first woman medical intern in Canada
  • Dr. Margaret McCallum Johnston (class of 1900) – first WCH chief of anaesthesia
  • Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw (class of 1905) – medical director of Canada’s first birth control clinic in Hamilton

Every woman who passed through the doors of Woman’s Medical College was a courageous pioneer who refused to accept the status quo, and today our hospital continues to break down barriers and push the boundaries of traditional healthcare to become a leader in health for women and health equity.

Throughout October, which is Women’s History Month, WCH will celebrate this historic anniversary by showcasing the influence and impact of the medical college’s past graduates as well as the WCH physicians who are continuing to revolutionize healthcare today for a healthier and more equitable world.

Stay tuned to Connect for these features.

Woman’s Medical College

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