Carrie Derick

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Carrie Matilda Derick
Carrie Derick.jpg
Carrie Derick in Toronto at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, August 1924[1]
Born (1862-01-14)January 14, 1862
Clarenceville, Quebec
Died November 10, 1941(1941-11-10) (aged 79)
Montreal, Quebec
Nationality Canadian
Occupation geneticist
Known for Canada’s first female professor

Carrie Matilda Derick (January 14, 1862 – November 10, 1941) was a Canadian botanist and geneticist, the first female professor in a Canadian university, and the founder of McGill University's Genetics Department.[2]


Born in Clarenceville, Quebec, Carrie was educated at the Clarenceville Academy and received her teacher training at the McGill Normal School before becoming a school teacher in Clarenceville and Montreal. In 1890, she received a B.A. from McGill University, graduating at the top of her class in natural science with first-class honours.[3] (Included in that class were two other notable Canadian women: Elizabeth Binmore and Maude Abbott.) She began teaching at the Trafalgar Institute for Girls in 1890 while also working part-time as McGill's first female botany "demonstrator".[2]

In 1891, Derick began her master's program at McGill under David Penhallow and received her M.A. in botany in 1896.[1][2] She attended the University of Bonn in 1901 and completed the research required for a Ph.D. but was not awarded an official doctorate since the University did not give women Ph.D. degrees. She then returned to McGill and "continued to work, teach, and administer" in the botany department. In 1905, "after seven years of lecturing, assisting Penhallow with his classes, researching and publishing, without any pay increments or offers of promotion, Derick wrote directly to Principal Peterson and was promoted to assistant professor" at one-third the salary of her male counterparts. Derick was only officially appointed as professor of comparative morphology and genetics by McGill in 1912 after three years of running the department following Penhallow's death. She was the first woman both at McGill and in Canada to achieve university professorship. She retired in 1929.[2]

Derick also studied at Harvard University for three summers, the Royal College of Science, London in 1898, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts for seven summers, and was a leader in early feminism: fighting for women's right to education, the vote, and work.[3] Derick was a member of the Mu Iota Society, a group whose name was later changed to The Alumnae Society.[4] She was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, vice president of the Natural History Society of Montreal, and a member of the Botanical Society of America, the American Genetics Association, the Montreal Philosophical Club, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Executive Committee of the National Council of Education, and the first woman on the Protestant Committee of Public Instruction, Quebec, from 1920 to 1937.[3] Derick was also president of the Montreal Suffrage Association from 1913 to 1919 and, in 1914, supported Annie Langstaff, the first woman to graduate in law at McGill, in her unsuccessful bid to be admitted to the bar in Quebec. Along with Maude Abbott, McGill’s pioneer cardiologist and curator of the Medical Museum, Derick founded and was a lifelong member of the National Council of Women.[2] One of Derick's students, Faith Fyles, went on to become assistant botanist on the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa.

Derick died on November 10, 1941 in Montreal, Quebec. A street is named after her in Montreal's Southwest borough.



  1. ^ a b "Carrie M. Derick (1862-1941), standing outside building". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Birker, Ingrid. "Carrie Derick: Canada’s first female professor taught at McGill". McGill Reporter. McGill Publications. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Sterling, Keir Brooks, ed. (1997). "Derick, Carrie (Matilda)". Biographical dictionary of American and Canadian naturalists and environmentalists. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 204–206. 
  4. ^ Gillett, Margaret (1981). We Walked Very Warily: A History of Women at McGill. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Eden Press Women's Publications. p. 372. 
  5. ^ Carrie Matilda Derick National Historic Person, Directory of Federal Heritage Designations, Parks Canada, 2012
  6. ^ Carrie Derick’s 155th Birthday, Google, January 14, 2017

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