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Emily Jennings Stowe and Augusta Stowe Gullen

Photograph of Emily Jennings Stowe and Augusta Stowe Gullen



Pioneer Women Doctors

Left to right: Dr. Emily Jennings Stowe and Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen

Emily Jennings Stowe pioneered the struggle for women's equality in Canada as the first woman school principal (1852) and physician (1867). She organized the country's first suffrage organization, initially called the Toronto Women's Literary Club (1877). Five years later its name was changed to the Toronto Women's Suffrage Club. Her daughter, Augusta Stowe Gullen, continued in her mother's extraordinary path, becoming the first woman to study medicine and graduate from a Canadian university in 1883.

In 1865, Emily Jennings was refused entry to the University of Toronto on account of her sex. She returned to Toronto in 1867, after graduating from medical school in New York, to practise medicine in the face of fines, threats of imprisonment and opposition from the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. Along with Dr. Jennie Trout, she endured the harassment of her male professors and fellow medical students when the Toronto School of Medicine reluctantly admitted them in the early 1870s. Emily continued to practise illegally until the College of Physicians and Surgeons finally granted her a licence in 1880.

Her daughter, Augusta Stowe, was forced to endure similar hardships when she enrolled in the Toronto School of Medicine in 1879. However, after she delivered one particularly stinging rebuke, the taunts came less often. Following Stowe's graduation in 1883 as the first woman to take her complete medical training in Canada, she married fellow graduate Dr. John B. Gullen, and was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy at the new Women's Medical College, and later Professor of Pediatrics.

In 1896, both mother and daughter participated in a mock parliament, organized by the Dominion Women's Enfranchisement Association, humorously debating and defeating a motion to permit men the vote. Following her mother's death, Augusta became president of the final incarnation of the Toronto Women's Literary Club, the Canadian Suffrage Association, and then vice-president of the National Council of Women.


Hacker, Carlotta. — The indomitable lady doctors. — Toronto/Vancouver: Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited, c1974. — 259 p. — ISBN 0772007233

McCallum, Margaret. — Emily Stowe. — Toronto: Grolier Limited, c1989. — 47 p. — ISBN 0717225097

Ray, Janet. — Emily Stowe. — Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, c1978. — 63 p. — ISBN 0889022364

100 years of medicine, 1849-1949. — Saskatoon: Modern Press Limited, c1949. — 52 p.

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