First Woman to Practice Medicine in Canada
May 1, 1831 to April 29, 1903
Emily was the first woman to practice medicine in Canada and she is heralded as the First Lady of the Canadian women’s right and suffrage moment.
Emily was the oldest of six girls born into an Ontario farming family. Emily’s mother a Quaker encouraged her daughters to expect equality with men. Emily received the best education possible at a co-educational school Quaker school in Providence Rhode Island.
Emily was 15 years old when she started teaching in a one room school house. After seven years Emily decided to go to University however her application to Victoria College in Cobourg Ontario was denied because she was a woman. Undaunted she applied to newly founded Normal School for Upper Canada and she graduated a year later in 1854.
She return to teaching and quickly found herself being promoted, becoming the first female principal in the Upper Canada School District.
She married John Stowe in 1856 and when John developed tuberculosis Emily turned to homeopathic medicine that her mother used. Needing to know more she applied to the Toronto School of Medicine and in 1865 she was told that women were not accepted and never would be. Not a woman to accept arbitrary limits being set for her she applied to the school for homeopathic medicine, Medical College of Women in New York and graduated in the same year.
Returning to Canada she set up her medical practice becoming the first woman to practice medicine in Canada. Emily wrote and lectured exclusively on issues pertaining to women’s health. She was so inexhaustible in her work for women’s health that in 1870 she was invited to attend the Toronto School of Medicine only a short 5 years after she had been summarily refused entrance.
Emily either failed or refused to take the final written and oral examinations there are differing historical reports on this fact. However there is no ambiguity in the historical records about to the harassment and ridicule that she had to endure while at medical school.
Emily returned to practicing homeopathic medicine and on July 16, 1880 the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario bestowed on Emily a license to practice medicine in Ontario, 30 years after she started practicing medicine.
In her work for women’s rights Emily:
- founded the Toronto Women’s Literary Club that later became the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association, which lead to the establishment of the Ontario Medical College for Women
- was the first president of the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association a position she held until her death
Emily died in 1903, 14 years before women were granted the right to vote.
Emily Howard (Jennings) Stowe is a woman of history. As parents it is important that we remember and talk about the courage and tenacity of the women who opened up the opportunities that women benefit from today. Let’s continue to tell Emily’s story to our children providing them powerful examples of social change.
© 2013-2014 twosnydergirls
Articles used in preparing this post.
Feldberg, G. (1994). JENNINGS, EMILY HOWARD. Retrieved from Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jennings_emily_howard_13E.html
Library and Archives Canada. (2014). Dr. Emily Howard Stowe. Retrieved from Library and Archives Canada: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/physicians/030002-2500-e.html
Phototheque Homeopathique. (2001). Dr Emily Howard Jennings Stowe. Retrieved from Phototheque Homeopathique: http://www.homeoint.org/photo/s2/stowe.htm
Wikipedia. (2014). Emily Stowe. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Stowe