Monthly Archives: October 2014

CFUW Trailblazers: Women Who Knew How to Roar

To mark Women’s History Month in Canada, CFUW is honouring some of the trailblazers that were once members of our organization.

Dr. Alice E. Wilson

Dr. Alice E. Wilson

Dr. Ann Augusta Stowe-Gullen (1857 – 1943), one of the first members of the University Women’sClub Toronto, is known for being the first woman to graduate from a Canadian medical school (Faculty of Medicine at Victoria University, Toronto) in 1883. Her advocacy work led to the establishment of the Ontario Medical College for Women.

 Dr. Alice E. Wilson (1881 – 1964) was one of the first recipients of a CFUW scholarship at the age of 44, which opened the door to a long and distinguished career as the first woman to hold a professional position with the Geological Survey of Canada and to be appointed Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1938.  Recognizing the importance of the CFUW scholarship/fellowship program, Dr. Wilson left a bequest to the organization in 1964, establishing the Dr. Alice E. Wilson Awards. The awards are given to four women annually.

Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw

Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw

Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw (1881 – 1982) was one of Canada’s first female doctors and the medical director of the first (illegal) birth control clinic in Canada despite intense criticism from the medical and religious communities. She served as the clinic’s medical director for over 30 years pioneering areas of family medicine that were not widely practiced at the time. Dr. Bagshaw was a member of the University Women’s Club of Hamilton.

Helen Alice Kinnear, Q.C. (1894 – 1970), a former member of the University Women’s Club of Toronto, was the first federally appointed woman judge in Canada.


Charlotte Elizabeth Whitton, O.C., C.B.E. (1896 – 1975)
was a member of the University Women’s Club in Ottawa, a feminist, and the first woman mayor of Ottawa (and a major city in Canada), serving from 1951 to 1956 and again from 1960 to 1964.

The Honourable Muriel McQueen Fergusson, P.C. O.C. Q.C. (1899 – 1997), a former member of CFUW Ottawa, was the first woman Speaker of the Senate from 1972 to 1974, and the first woman deputy mayor of Ottawa in 1953.

Phyllis Gregory RossO.C., C.B.E. (1903 – 1988) was a Canadian economist and the first woman to serve as a Chancellor in the Commonwealth of Nations. She was a member and President of the University Women’s Club in Ottawa. 

Winona Grace MacInnisO.C., O.B.C.  (1905 – 1991), a former member of University Women’s Clubs of Ottawa and Vancouver, was the first woman from British Columbia to be elected to the House of Commons.

Helen Battles Sawyer Hogg, C.C. (1905 – 1993), a former member of the University Women’s Club on Toronto, was an astronomer, the first female president of several astronomical organizations, and the first woman to be appointed to the physical sciences division of the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. Jessie Gray

Dr. Jessie Gray

Dr. Jessie Gray (1910 – 1978) was known as Canada’s “first lady of surgery”, and one of the four leading cancer surgeons in North America at the time. She was a member of the University Women’s Club of Toronto, and earned a formidable succession of firsts: first woman gold medalist in medicine at U of T (1934); first woman to obtain the master of surgery degree (1939); first woman resident surgeon at the Toronto General Hospital; first woman fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (Canada, 1941); first woman member of the Central Surgical Society of North America; and first woman elected to the Science Council of Canada (1966).


The Hon. Pauline Mills McGibbon, C.C., O. Ont, (1910 – 2001) was a member of the University Women’s Club of Toronto, and served as the 22nd Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1974 to 1980. In addition to being the first woman to occupy this position, she was the first woman to serve as a viceregal representative.

Blanche Margaret Meagher, O.C. (1911 – 1999) was a Canadian diplomat and in 1958 was appointed as Canada’s first woman ambassador. She was a member of the University Women’s Club of Halifax and served as Ambassador to Israel, Austria and Sweden.

Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain, C.M., C.Q. is a Quebec lawyer, judge, politician and former member of CFUW Montreal. She was the first woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec, the first woman appointed a Cabinet minister in Quebec, the first woman appointed acting premier, and the first woman judge to serve in the Quebec Provincial Court.