Canadian Women in the Professions

MADGE MacBETH March 1 1915

Canadian Women in the Professions

MADGE MacBETH March 1 1915

Canadian Women in the Professions


OF all the women who have figured in these articles, no matter what their individual struggles, those as a body traveling the thorniest path have been women in professional life. Barred for many years from practising medicine at all, barred for many more years from even entering universities (and once entered finding it impossible to take a medical course), holding only in isolated instances, Chairs in Universities, it would seem that Canada is especially discouraging to the higher education of women!

The first woman who braved the storm of public feeling and narrow-mindedness in the matter of medicine, was Doctor Emily Howard Jennings Stowe. She was obliged to go to New York to study, but went to Toronto after her graduation in 1867 and practised there. The first woman to take a medical degree in Canada was Doctor Augusta Stowe Gullen, a daughter of Dr. Emily Stowe, who in 1883 graduated from Victoria University, Cobourg. She was a member of the first staff of the Toronto Women’s Medical College, and continued in that work for twentythree years, after which the College ceased to exist. The first woman to graduate from Queen’s University was Dr. Elizabeth Smith, better known to us today as Mrs. Adam Shortt.

The first woman to practise medicine in the Province of Quebec was Dr. Octavia Grace Ritchie, who a few years later married Dr. Frank England. The first woman to hold a chair in McGill University was Professor Carrie Matilda Derick. And we could go on, speaking of pioneers through quite a lengthy column. They were born, not made; no woman could have stood the discouragements of those early days unless she had been born to be a student, a doctor, a professor. Thanks have been given them many times in the press and in private life, but never can they be over-appreciated for their energy,

their courage and their ambition in blazing a trail for the generations which are to follow.

In the Province of Quebec, not many miles from St. John, there lies a modest little village which is not linked with the outer world, by the steel arms of a railway, even ; the waves of Progress seem to have washed it beyond reach, and in the furious clash of competition and the march of the years, it seems to have been passed by. Yet this little village goes about its unhurried business serene-

in Canadian history twice over; once because it is the birthplace of the Hon.

Frank Cochrane, and again because it is the birthplace of Professor Carrie M. Derick.

I refer, of course, to little Claremceville.

It is settled principally by Dutch and U. E. Loyalist stock, and from the latter comes Miss Derick, whose very young girlhood was spent there, but whose ambitions soon took her to Montreal. Her parents were what citizens of the metropolis are pleased to call “country people” and fairly well-to-do. Her father was a particularly brainy man, and her mother a most superior and cultured woman, which explains the double inheritance descending to their famous daughter.

At the Normal School in Montreal she took the Prince of Wales medal amongst other high honors and upon leaving Montreal returned to her native town to take charge of the school there. This, under her management was raised from its then moderately good standard to the highest possible, that of a high school. It was under a Government grant, and flourished as never before in its history. Miss Derick then returned to Montreal and accepted a teacher’s position in the select private school known as Butte House, which stood upon the present site of the McGill Union. A few years after McGill opened its doors to women she entered the University, her diplomas from the Normal School admitting her to the second year. She took the science course, was the Logan gold medalist, and graduated in 1890, receiving her B.A. at that time, and her M.A. just a little later.

Her first position in McGill was assistant to Professor Penhallow, in botany. Upon his illness she was obliged to take

over all his work, including the instruction of the first-year“ meds.”

Miss Derick filled her arduous position faithfully and well for something like a year. At the death of Professor Pen-

hallow it was naturally taken for granted that this woman who had done his work and who had proven herself so eminently fitted to do it, would be given his chair. Unfortunately, extreme conservation saw fit to appoint a man over Miss Derick, thus keeping the feminine element as far from prominence as possible. In a word, some obvious hair-splitting was done, and she was awarded the assistant professorship under the formidable title—professor of morphological botany. It was supposed, I take it, that a healthy mouthful such as this, would prove a sop for almost anything.

Considering the stand McGill has taken against women, it conferred a rare honor upon Carrie M. Derick when it included her (the first woman to be thus honored) amongst the members of its faculty, at all. From the viewpoint of justice, it could do no less. Quoting one of Miss Derick’s intimate friends:

“What she has got, she has worked for —and never a woman harder. It is conceded that she is clever, but even cleverness could not put her where she ought to be to-day. Her cleverness is better defined by the word genius which we are told is the infinite capacity for taking pains. Where others might arrive at conclusions by intuition, Carrie had to plod for them, but where others forgot what they had learned, she remembered. For years she never took a holiday, spending her summers at a Science School—Wood’s Hole, in Massachusetts. She made a specialty of zoology, as she also did at Bonn.”

The small portion of her days during which she is free from the University’s demands, is given over to all sorts of philanthropic work, more especially to the cause of equal suffrage. As a mere ob-

server, and not as a confident, I would say that Miss Derick’s energetic work along these lines may be tempered by personal experience resulting from the manner in which women are discriminated against. But even at that, she is never bitter. Worse, she is funny, and turns the barb of ridicule into the one who has sufficient temerity to argue with her. Her sharpness of wit is a delight to any audience; she is most popular in her capacity as lecturer, and her deep scientific knowledge is leavened by a sparkling brilliancy which always fills her hall, no matter whether her subject be biology or the rights of women.

Miss Derick has the keenest sense of humor one can imagine. She is not averse to practical joking, even, and in passing, it might be said that she enjoys a joke on herself as well as any.

Miss Derick was re-elected president of the Montreal Suffrage Association this past autumn. In speaking upon the prevailing topic of war and its relation to woman’s suffrage, she said:

“We are fighting against the ‘might is right’ ideal of the Teutons; consequently after the war I have every reason to hope that men will see the humor of their position in regard to women, and that seeing what their refusal of equal rights amounts to, they will accord us what is our due.”

To repeat—considering how tradition has barred women in a sense from the freedom of McGill University—it conferred no small honor by awarding Dr. Maude Abbott the curatorship of the Pathological Museum although, as one of her intimate friends remarked, “To us who knew, loved and admired her so tremendously, we thought that even that was not good enough.”

Maude Elizabeth Abbott was born in St. Andrew’s, P.Q., of a distinguished family, the late Sir John Abbott being a a near relative. Her childhood was more or less uneventful but it was universally remarked upon her entrance to McGill that she had a career. Previous to her entrance there she had obtained a degree in medicine at Bishop’s College, Lennoxville. She was the gold medalist for general standing in her year and a great favorite with both professors and students ; rather a rare happening. She was very keen in debates and was a member of a society for that purpose called the Delta Sigma—in honor of the late Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona. She spent several years in Zurich and Vienna, and took the Edinburgh Triple Qualification, 1897, the previous year having started to practise medicine in Montreal.

She was elected to the executive of the International Association of Medical Museums at Washington, D.C., and, as every one knows, was made a fellow in pathology at McGill. In 1911 she was given the status of lecturer and the degree M.D.C.M. She has been an untiring worker in the establishment of playgrounds for the Montreal children, and has identified herself with many other public-spirited movements. Of her writings, too much is known to need mention here, but a personal picture will be of interest. Modest to a fault, a sincere ad-

mirer of things beautiful whether they be the gloss of a woman’s hair or a drab grey specimen floating in spirits, she is essentially a feminine pi'ofessor ! “Jolly,” says a classmate, “and never too tired to enjoy a bit of fun. We used to poke about the museums at recess or lunch time and Maude always found something funny in these excursions. She was greatly respected by the professors who recognized beside a rare ability, the desire to put all her energies into something telling. She asked a certain professor in her third year, to give her outside work, not finding the specialized course demanded by McGill sufficiently engrossing! This same professor speaks of her at the time of the McGill fire, when, to him, the most pathetic feature of the calamity was Dr. Abbott, whose notes—a laborious collection of years—were entirely destroyed. She was intrumental in saving many valuables from the Museum, but her personal ‘specimens’ were burnt.”

One of the best known women practitioners in Western Canada, is Dr. Mary Elizabeth Crawford, of Winnipeg. She was born in Ottawa, according to Morgan, who also tells us that her father was a master mariner. Like so many prominent Canadians Dr. Crawford comes of Scottish ancestry and like many another woman who has made her mark in the world she was educated primarily by her mother. Her father, by the way, came to Ottawa as principal of the Ottawa Presbyterian Ladies’ College, so she should have had a rather educational setting.

She took a kindergarten course and got a certificate in this; studied at Trinity University and took an M.D. in 1900; was appointed house surgeon in the West Philadelphia Hospital for Women and Children shortly after and following that, went to Winnipeg to practise. She is medi-

cal inspector of schools there and does much experimental work for the School Board. Dr. Crawford has time too for many outside interests, notably in connection with the Women’s University Club,

of which she was elected president in 1913.

Perhaps I am safe in saying that there is no better known woman practitioner than Dr. Helen MacMurchy, of Toronto. She is responsible for many departures from the old unhygienic management of public schools, and has been largely instrumental in arousing the public to a sense of its obligation in the matter of inspection of schools.

She is the daughter of Archibald MacMurchy, LL.D., who was principal of the Toronto Grammar School for many years, and she taught in that same school after it became known as the Jarvis Street Collegiate Institute, taking her medical course while teaching. After graduating at the Toronto University and the Toronto Women’s Medical College, she took post graduate courses in Philadelphia, and in Baltimore at the Johns Hopkins University. Returning to Toronto, she took up general practice but gradually gave her especial attention to work along the lines of public health, infant mortality and the care of the feeble-minded. She was appointed Commissioner of the FeebleMinded by the Ontario Government in 1906 and is a member of the International Council of School Hygiene, having received this appointment during its Paris meeting in 1910. She is a notable lecturer, her addresses at the Public Health Congress being largely attended. She addressed the Social Service Congress in Ottawa with her usual success. I recollect that upon the former occasion, the speakers preceding Dr. MacMurchy had somewhat overstepped the time limit, so that the hour for adjourning came while she was in the midst of her address. I think Dr. Grace Ritchie England occupied the chair; no matter! Who ever it was, the chairman put it to the audience— should the lecture be discontinued, or would those present sacrifice part of their lunch and recreation hour? There was a unanimous vote for the latter, and Dr. MacMurchy proceeded.

Another public-spirited woman whose activities lay now outside her chosen profession, is Mrs. Adam Shortt.

She was born a Smith, but then, there are Smiths and Smiths. She lived in the picturesque little town of Winona, Ontario, not far from Hamilton, and she attended school, first in her home town and then at the Hamilton Collegiate Institute. A little later, she passed into the Royal Medical College, which was affiliated with Queen’s University, Kingston, and she received her degree in 1884.

I am not sure that like the child in H. G. Wells, “The History of Mr. Polly,” Dr Elizabeth Smith looked upon the carving of a victim’s liver, with any particular relish. Her motive in becoming a physician was a nobler, a larger one—she wanted to help other women to master the exceeding difficulties in making for themselves a profession which twenty-five years ago, was not looked upon with the tolerance, the favor which it is accorded now. As Mrs. Shortt, herself, says, there should never have been any reason for the separating of medical colleges—one for men, and one for women—had not the men, and often the lecturers, deliberately tried to make the course as trying, as disagreeable and as offensive to the women students as possible. She supported,

therefore, heart and soul, the cause by which a separate course for women was inaugurated at Kingston. She herself lectured on medical jurisprudence and sanitary science, in the Women’s Medical College and threw herself, with utmost energy, into the life of the students there. This was after several years of practising her profession in Hamilton, and her marriage to Professor Adam Shortt, then a member of the faculty at Queen’s.

If you can imagine a friend whose sympathy in all puzzling problems was ready and spontaneous, not only that, but whose practical advice and influence, meant much to the young collegian, if you can imagine a woman whose doors were open week in and week out to all student callers whose welcome was assured, if you can imagine a woman whose life was so bound up in that of the University that no receptions, debates, entertainments or discussions were complete without her, you have a picture of Mrs. Shortt during the years she lived in Kingston. Beside, she was the president of the Y.W.C.A., and

of the Musical Club, as well as the Queen’s Alumnae Association.

Rather than bewilder the reader by a list of the various offices held by Mrs. Shortt, I will write a few words concerning the character of this splendidly patriotic woman, as seen by an outsider.

It is after some thought that the word marvelous is used to describe her powers of organization, more especially in regard to her own work than that of the numerous bodies with which she is connected. During the years she was in Kingston, when her children were small, she arranged her days so that every necessary thing was accomplished. She did not neglect her children, nor did she gloss over what she considered her outside work. Further, she attended to the ills which flesh is heir to in her family, and safely brought them through the mumps, measles and all the other diseases contracted by the growing child. When she moved to

Ottawa and was urged to associate herself with so many reform institutions, she almost invariably gave her services and her thought, still finding time, in some mysterious way to accomplish the most ordinary household duties, such as are usually discarded by the busy woman, and left to the care of a domestic. She believes that women should be competent housekeepers, makes many delicious dishes for her table, not spasmodically, but regularly, takes care of her own room, does innumerable irksome jobs, before setting out on her daily round of ‘meetings’ and returns often fagged in body but indomitable in spirit.

“What about the telephone?” asked some unbeliever. “One can’t accomplish things and answer the phone at the same

It is strange but true, that if Mrs. Shortt is in the house, she never refuses to answer the clamorous demands of our mixed blessing, the phone. She never appears to hurry the speaker. She is rarely

Why the cake does not burn, the pastryget tough, or the eggs fall flat, I am unable to tell you—they just don’t. That’s all!

She is not a great reader; she has no time. She is not a great writer, nor a speaker, but when she does speak, every one listens and learns. Her patience and good nature are never-failing. As children, her family say that first and foremost she was “Mother,” and never shooed them away or sh-h-ed them into unnatural quiet because she was planning some work. When did she do it? After other folk had gone to sleep, for Mrs. Shortt is one of the people who can get along with but a few hours of slumber.

“Often,” she said, “in the early part of the night I lie awake and plan a paper, then, when it is late and every one else is asleep. I get up and write it.”

Small Bank Notes Issued in France and England

IN order to meet the financial crisis caused by the outbreak of the European war, both Great Britain and France have made large issues of emergency currency which is now in general circulation. In each instance paper money of much smaller denominations than that previously in existence in the two countries, has been introduced. Heretofore the fivepound note issued by the Bank of England was the smallest bill put out by the British Government. Recently, however, a onepound note, equivalent to about $5 in Canadian money, has made its appearance. The Bank of France, on the other hand, regularly issued nothing smaller than a 20-franc note, which in our money represents $4. At the opening of the war a five-franc bill was placed in circulation by that institution, while shortly afterward a two-franc note was placed in circulation by the town of St. Quentin. After the Germans had passed through Epernay, France, and taken most of the available money with them, the mayor of that place authorized the issue of notes in denominations as small as 25 and 50 centimes, or five and ten cents.