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Dr. Emily Stowe

Dr. Emily Stowe Dr. Emily Stowe (1831-1903) was the first female doctor to practice in Ontario. Dr. Emily Howard Jennings Stowe was born in Norwich Township, Oxford County, Ontario. She was raised as a Quaker. Dr. Stowe became a school teacher at the age of 15 at a schoolhouse in neighboring Summerville. As an advocate for equality, especially where education was concerned, Stowe applied in 1852 for admission to Victoria College in Cobourg. Though she was refused on the basis of her gender, Stowe was not deterred from achieving an advanced education. She was accepted by Toronto’s Normal School for Upper Canada, the only advanced academic institution open to women in British North America. In 1854, Stowe graduated with honours, and soon after was hired as the first female principal of a public school in Brantford, Ontario. In 1865, after having been inspired by her husband's deteriorating condition to study homeopathic medicine, Stowe applied to the Toronto School of Medicine where she was once again denied based on her gender. Unable to study in Canada, Stowe applied and attended New York Medical College for Women where she graduated from in 1867. Degree in hand, Stowe began to practice homeopathic medicine in Toronto even before obtaining her license, making her the first practicing female physician in Canada. In the mid to late 1860’s, the medical profession was under reorganization, making it obligatory that all homeopathic physicians and doctors trained in the United States undergo further medical studies to obtain their licenses. It was not until 1871 that Stowe, and fellow aspiring Dr. Jenny Kidd Trout, were permitted to attend classes at the University of Toronto under special arrangement. 

Resenting the hostility of the male faculty and students, Dr. Stowe refused to write the exams. She played a prominent role in many areas; the suffrage movement, Toronto Women’s Literary Club, creation of Ontario Medical College for Women and the establishment of Women’s College Hospital. In 1883, her daughter, Augusta Stowe-Gullen, was the first woman to graduate from a Canadian medical school (Faculty of Medicine at Victoria University Toronto). In Norwich Township, Ontario there is a Dr. Emily Stowe Public School.