Emily Stowe

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Emily Howard Jennings Stowe
Emily Stowe.jpg
Personal details
Born May 1, 1831
Norwich Township, Oxford County, Ontario
Died April 30, 1903(1903-04-30) (aged 71)
Muskoka, Ontario
Spouse(s) John Stowe
Children Ann August Stowe, John Howard Stowe, Frank Jennings Stowe
Profession Doctor, Suffragist
Religion Quaker until 1879, Unitarian after 1879

Dr. Emily Howard Stowe (May 1, 1831 – April 29, 1903) was the first female doctor to practice in Canada and an activist for women's rights and suffrage. Stowe helped found the women's suffrage movement in Canada and campaigned for Canada's first medical college for women.[1]

Early life[edit]

Emily Howard Jennings Stowe was born in Norwich Township, Oxford County, Ontario to Hannah Howard and Solomon Jennings. While Solomon converted to Methodism, Hannah raised Stowe and her five sisters as Quakers. In the Quaker tradition, Stowe's parents encouraged her to obtain an education and was sent to a co-educational Quaker school in Providence, Rhode Island.[2]

After teaching at local schools for seven years, Stowe’s public struggle to achieve equality for women began in 1852, when she applied for admission to Victoria College, Cobourg, Ontario. Refused on the grounds that she was female, she applied to the Normal School for Upper Canada, which Egerton Ryerson had recently founded in Toronto. She entered in November 1853 and was graduated with first-class honours in 1854.[1] Hired as principal of a Brantford, Ontario public school, she was the first woman to be a principal of a public school in Upper Canada. She taught there until her marriage in 1856.

She married John Fiuscia Michael Heward Stowe in 1856. In the next seven years she had 3 children; 2 sons and a daughter. Shortly after the birth of their third child, her husband developed tuberculosis which led her to take a renewed interest in medicine. Having had experience with herbal remedies and homeopathic medicine since the 1840s, Emily Howard Stowe left teaching and decided to become a doctor.[2]

Medical career[edit]

Stowe was denied entrance into the Toronto School of Medicine in 1865 and was told by the school's Vice President, "The doors of the University are not open to women and I trust they never will be."[2] Unable to study medicine in Canada, Emily Stowe earned her degree in the United States from the homeopathic New York Medical College for Women in 1867. The same year, Emily returned to Canada and opened a practice in Toronto, Ontario.[2]

Stowe's medical practice stood on Richmond Street in Toronto.[1] Stowe gained some local prominence through public lectures on women's health and maintained a steady clientele through newspaper advertisements.[2]

In 1870, the president of the Toronto School of Medicine granted special permission to Stowe and fellow student Jenny Kidd Trout to attend classes, a requirement for medical practitioners with foreign licenses. Faced with hostility from both the male faculty and students, Stowe refused to take the oral and written exams and left the school.[2]

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario granted Stowe a license to practice medicine on July 16, 1880, based on her experience with homeopathic medicine since 1850. This license made Stowe the second female licensed physician in Canada, after Trout.[2]

Her daughter, Augusta Stowe-Gullen, was the first woman to earn a medical degree in Canada.

Women's rights[edit]

While studying medicine in New York, Stowe met with Susan B. Anthony and witnessed the divisions within the American women's suffrage movement. Stowe also attended a women's club meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. Stowe adopted a gradualist strategy which she brought back to her work in Canada.[2]

In 1876, Stowe founded the Toronto Women's Literary Club, later renamed the Canadian Women's Suffrage Association in 1883.[2] This has led some to consider Stowe the mother of the suffrage movement in Canada. The Literary Club campaigned for improved working conditions for women and pressured schools in Toronto to accept women into higher education. In 1883, a public meeting of the Suffrage Association led to the creation of the Ontario Medical College for Women.[1] When the Dominion Women's Enfranchisement Association was founded in 1889, Stowe became its first president and remained president until her death.

As is true for many suffragists, a tension existed between Stowe's commitment to fellow women and class loyalty. In an episode that may demonstrate the dominance of the latter, Stowe broke the bond of doctor-patient confidentiality by disclosing the abortion request of a patient, Sara Ann Lovell, a domestic servant, to her employer. (See Abortion trial of Emily Stowe) Stowe, however, sharply criticized the National Policy economic program in 1892. Stowe believed that the program would not help working-class Canadians and was instead a corrupt deal on the behalf of major businesses.[3]

After breaking her hip at the Columbian Exposition's Women's Congress in 1893, Stowe retired from medicine. In 1896, Emily and her daughter Augusta participated in an all-female "mock parliament," where the women considered a petition from a male delegation for the right to vote. Stowe, as the Attorney General, used the same arguments that the Canadian Parliament had leveled against female suffragists and denied the petition.[1] Stowe died in 1903, fourteen years before Canadian women were granted the right to vote.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Dr. Emily Howard Stowe". Library and Archives Canada. 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Baros-Johnson, Irene. "Emily Stowe". Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society. Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Homel, Gene Howard (5 Vol 1980, Spring). "'Fading Beams of the Nineteenth Century': Radicalism and Early Socialism in Canada's 1890s". Labour/Le Travail: 7–32. 

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