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Table of Contents
Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson is known for being the first female surgeon in Canada. Throughout her career, she fought against gender discrimination and helped advance research in women’s medicine.
See the fact file below for more information on the Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson or alternatively, you can download our 26-page Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Jennie was inspired to become a doctor after watching the doctor who cared for her dying father.
- Jennie performed many gynecological and abdominal surgeries over her long career.
EARLY LIFE & MEDICAL SCHOOL
- Jennie Smillie Robertson was born on February 10, 1878 near a village called Hensall in Huron County, Ontario, Canada.
- Jennie was the third of seven children. Her parents, Benjamin Smillie and Jane Buchanan were both farmers.
- At age six, Jennie’s father passed away from tuberculosis.
- Jennie was inspired to become a doctor after watching the doctor attend to her dying father.
- After her father passed away, Jennie’s oldest brother began to run the family farm.
- At age 18, Jennie got her teaching degree and began working as a teacher.
- She soon began to save money so that she could attend the Ontario Medical College for Women and become a doctor.
- Jennie began attending the Ontario Medical College for Women in 1905. Shortly after, in 1906, the University of Toronto (U of T) began to accept women onto their medical program.
- As a result, the Ontario Medical College for Women was shut down and Jennie completed her medical degree at the U of T, graduating in 1909.
- As there were no medical residencies or internships available to women in Canada at that time, Jennie moved to Philadelphia and completed her residency training at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.
DOCTOR CAREER & ACTIVISM
- After completing her residency training at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1910, Jennie returned to Toronto.
- She attempted to find work at a hospital, but no one would hire her because she was female. She was also unable to find someone to train her as a surgeon because she was female.
- Jennie decided to open her own medical practice in Toronto, but after one year she decided to move back to Pennsylvania to begin training as a surgeon.
- Jennie’s finished her training in six months (1911).
- After finishing her training, she moved back to Toronto.
- In Toronto she found that no one would hire her as a surgeon because she was female.
- While struggling to find work as a doctor and surgeon in Canada, Jennie met many other female doctors and surgeons who were experiencing the same discriminaton.
- Jennie met many of these women at the Toronto Women’s Suffrage Club.
- The Women’s Suffrage Club was a group of activists fighting for gender equality in Canada’s medical education of women.
WOMENS COLLEGE HOSPITAL
- In 1911, Jennie and her group of female physicians opened the Women’s College Hospital at 18 Seaton Street.
- The hospital was initially small; it was a rented home with seven beds for patients.
- The hospital was run by women for women and was a huge success.
- The Women’s College Hospital expanded over the years and became affiliated with the University of Toronto.
- The Women’s College Hospital continues to run today. They focus on conducting research into women’s health and providing medical services to women.
- Jennie worked at the Women’s College Hospital as a surgeon performing gynecological and abdominal surgeries from 1912-1942.
DID YOU KNOW?
- In the early twentieth century, many surgeries were performed on patients in their homes. Jennie performed the first major gynecological surgery, the removal of an ovarian tumor, on the kitchen table of her patient’s home.
- She went on to perform many other gynecological and abdominal surgeries in her career.
- Gynecological surgery is a surgery that involves a women’s reproductive system.
LATER LIFE & LEGACY
- Jennie went on to become one of the founding members of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada. This is a nonprofit group that fights for women’s health problems and helps support and connect female physicians across Canada.
- In 1948, at age 70, Jennie retired from medicine.
- In the same year, she married a man named Alex Robertson. Jennie had known Alex for fifty years prior to them getting married.
- Jennie and Alex were married until Alex died ten years later.
- Jennie lived to be 103 years old. She passed away from natural causes at a nursing home in Toronto on February 26, 1981.
- She was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.
- In 2013 the village of Hensall, Ontario named a park in honor of Jennie. It is called Dr. Jennie Smillie Park.
- Jennie’s career and activism have inspired other female physicians and surgeons in Canada and around the world.
- The different institutions and groups that Jennie helped form continue to promote the research and advancement of women’s health and education.
Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson across 26 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson who is known for being the first female surgeon in Canada. Throughout her career, she fought against gender discrimination and helped advance research in women’s medicine.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson Facts
- Opinion Piece
- Prescribed Wordsearch
- Robertson Timeline
- Goal, Obstacle, Solution
- Medicinal Crossword
- Finding Solutions
- Word Scramble
- Sequence of Events
- Five Words
- Turn to Truth
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Use With Any Curriculum
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