Our History

For more than 100 years, Women’s College Hospital has been developing revolutionary advances in healthcare. Today, we are building on the rich legacy of our courageous founders – women who refused to accept the status quo and who broke down barriers and pushed the boundaries in the pursuit of equity and excellence. To learn more about our history visit The Miss Margaret Robins Archives of Women’s College Hospital and our Women’s College Hospital Trailblazers pages.

Women’s College Hospital Milestones


Sketch of Woman’s Medical College, 1892. WCH Archives, L-00001.

Woman’s Medical College opens on October 1, 1883. It was founded by Dr. Emily Stowe, Canada’s first female physician, and her supporters. Women now have access to medical education at a time when there are few opportunities for women to study and practice medicine in Canada.


Women’s Dispensary – Baby Clinic, 1914. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 43.

The Women’s Dispensary opens. It is Toronto’s first “free clinic” for women and their families operated by female physicians. The Dispensary serves as a valuable teaching facility for female medical students at the medical college.


Women’s College Hospital and Dispensary, 1911-1915. WCH Archives, L-00005.

Women’s College Hospital (WCH) opens its doors in a small residential house at 18 Seaton Street on November 10, 1911. The hospital has seven inpatient beds and an active outpatient department. It is Canada’s first general women’s hospital operated by female doctors.


Group of canvassers in front of WCH at 125 Rusholme Road, 1925. WCH Archives, L-00977.

WCH moves to 125 Rusholme Road. The WCH School of Nursing is established and the hospital welcomes its first volunteers. 


WCH, 1935. WCH Archives, L- L-00140.

WCH at 76 Grenville Street officially opens on February 22, 1936.


Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald working in the clinical laboratory, 1952. WCH Archives, L-00662. Photograph by Canada Pictures Limited.

WCH’s Dr. Marion Hilliard and Dr. Eva Mader Macdonald collaborate in the development of a simplified Pap Test. The innovation leads to more women being screened for the early symptoms of cervical cancer.


Cancer X-ray machine unveiled in the Cancer Detection Clinic, 1948. WCH Archives, L-00380. Photograph by Gordon H. Jarrett Photography.

WCH opens Ontario’s first Cancer Detection Clinic for women. The clinic pioneers the practice of screening healthy women for early signs of cancer.


Dr. Joan Vale with medical students, 1964. WCH Archives, L-02012. Photograph by John Reeves. 

WCH becomes a teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. The hospital changes its by-laws to allow men on its full-time medical staff.


Dr. Elizabeth Forbes examining X-rays in WCH’s Radiology Department, 1964. WCH Archives, L-01963. Photograph by John Reeves.

WCH is the first hospital in Ontario to use mammography as a routine diagnostic tool to detect breast cancer. In 1967, WCH’s Dr. Henrietta Banting and Dr. Elizabeth Forbes publish one of the first Canadian studies on mammography proving its holds benefits as a diagnostic tool.


Bay Centre for Birth Control, 1975. WCH Archives, L-00097.

The Bay Centre for Birth Control opens at WCH. It is Toronto’s first hospital-supported “walk-in” birth control clinic.


Nurse in Perinatal Intensive Care Unit, 1971. WCH Archives, L-00756.

Perinatal Intensive Care Unit is declared the Regional High-Risk Pregnancy Unit – the first of its kind in Canada.


WCH opens Ontario’s first regional Sexual Assault Care Centre.


The Brief Psychotherapy Centre for Women, the first hospital-based outpatient therapy program in Canada, is established.


WCH delivers Canada’s first test-tube quintuplets. 


Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative is established – Canada’s first cardiac prevention and rehabilitation program designed exclusively for women.


WCH becomes Ontario’s only academic ambulatory hospital with a primary focus on women’s health as it begins operating independently under the Public Hospitals Act.


Canada’s first breast implant reconstruction in a single stage is completed at WCH.


Ontario’s first hospital-based Centre for Headache opens at WCH.


WCH Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV) launches.


The new WCH facility at 76 Grenville Street officially opens on June 10th, 2016.


WCH launches a new Rapid Access Addiction Medicine clinic – the first of its kind in downtown Toronto.


The Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers at Women College Hospital launches.


WCH offers transition-related surgeries – the first public hospital-based surgical program in Canada focused on providing safe and timely access to transition-related surgical care.


WCH begins offering same-day joint replacement surgery in an outpatient setting – the first program of its kind in Canada.


Women’s Virtual launches at WCH – Canada’s first virtual hospital.


In November 2020, WCH officially opens the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health – Ontario’s first hospital-based centre to develop a comprehensive strategy for transforming non-Indigenous healthcare spaces into ones incorporating traditional and inclusive Indigenous practices.


WCH launches the Women’s Age Lab, the first and only centre of its kind in the world, dedicated to addressing the health inequities faced by older women.