150+ Canadians Day 79: Jennie Trout

Dr. Jennie Trout contributed to peace by pioneering the advancement of women in the field of medicine in Canada.  #Canada150

The names of women are conspicuously absent from the lists of famous Canadian medical pioneers. Historically, the male medical establishment was hostile to the idea of educated and paid female doctors. During the 19th century Canadian women were struggling for the mere right to practice medicine. For them, acceptance into a medical school was a major achievement. The two women most responsible for breaking down the barriers and advancing medical training for women in Canada were Emily Stowe and Jennie Kidd Trout. In 1875, Jennie Trout became the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada.

Born in 1841, Trout grew up on a farm near Stratford, Ontario. Upon graduation, she became a teacher in Stratford; a role she continued until she married Edward Trout in 1865. Soon after marriage she became ill for many years. When she recovered, she decided to become a physician. Her plans were encouraged by her husband, as well as by her longtime friend and mentor, Emily Stowe, who had been practicing medicine in Toronto since 1867 although she was not licensed by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.

When the Toronto School of Medicine reluctantly allowed Jennie Trout and Emily Stowe to attend lectures, it was on the condition that they “make no fuss, whatever happened.” Led by the lecturers themselves, the male students jeered at the women. Obscene sketches had to be white-washed from the walls four times in the course of the lectures. Finally, Trout went to the United States for her medical education. She returned to Canada in 1875 with a medical degree from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. She went on to practice medicine at Toronto’s Therapeutic and Electrical Institute until 1882.

When poor health forced her to retire she began working toward the establishment of a Canadian women’s medical college. After a long campaign to gather support for the college, Trout had another fight to see that women could sit on the college’s board of governors. Finally, the Women’s Medical College at Kingston opened on October 2, 1883, partly supported by a large financial contribution from Trout herself. Dr. Jennie Trout opened the door for the many Canadian women doctors who came after her.

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