Helen MacMurchy

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Helen MacMurchy
Helen MacMurchy.jpg
Born (1862-01-07)7 January 1862
Died 8 October 1953(1953-10-08) (aged 91)

Helen MacMurchy (7 January 1862 – 8 October 1953) was a Canadian doctor, author, and a pioneer in the medical field.


MacMurchy, the daughter of Archibald MacMurchy, graduated with first class honour in medicine and surgery in 1901 from the University of Toronto. She interned at Toronto General Hospital, the first woman to do so. She was also the first woman to take postgraduate work under William Osler at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

In 1914 MacMurchy wrote A Little Talk about the Baby, a book that mixed scholarly research with common sense. This book soon became known to all Canadian mothers.

MacMurchy was vocal in her attempts to persuade the Canadian government that eugenics was the answer to preventing degenerate babies. In 1915, she was appointed the "inspector of the feeble-minded" in Ontario. Her actions led to the wrongful sterilization of many immigrants.

In the 1920s MacMurchy waged a campaign against the then high infant and maternal death rates. She made a special study of medical inspection of schools, child welfare and public health in England and in the United States. She would also become (for seven years) provincial inspector and assistant inspector of hospitals, prisons and charities.

In 1934 MacMurchy was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[1] In 1949 she was named one of the ten leading women physicians in the western world. Among her contributions were her campaigns against high infant and maternal death rates, pioneering the link between medicine and social needs, and her writing and lecturing on maternal and child hygiene.


  • The Toronto Star, Oct. 13, 1953, and January 26, 1949 page 2.

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