Doctor Emily Stowe

Emily Stowe was born in Ontario in 1831. Throughout her life she made significant contributions to women’s suffrage and medical education for women in Canada.


Doctor Stowe’s (then Jennings) first vocation was as a teacher, not as a doctor. She applied to Victoria College and was rejected because of her gender, but was later accepted into Toronto’s Normal School for Upper Canada. After her graduation with first-class honours, she was granted a position on a school board and was also a principal until she was married to John Stowe. Together they had three children, but after the third child, John became seriously ill with Tuberculosis. Inspired by her husband’s illness, Emily applied to the Toronto School of Medicine. Once again, she was denied due to her gender.


After being denied access to medical school in Toronto, Emily Stowe sought medical education in the United States of America. She graduated in 1867 and returned to Canada after to start her own practice, which made her the first woman in Canada practicing medicine. She was not able to officially obtain a Canadian medical license until 1880, so until that time her practice was illegal.


In 1876 she organized the Toronto Women’s Literary Club, which was a group focused on women’s rights. She lectured for many years on a variety of topics including women in the workplace and women’s rights. Doctor Stowe was a strong advocate for better working conditions in workplaces. She pressured the Toronto School of Medicine to change their policies as part of her efforts to make medical school accessible to women. In 1883 her daughter was the first woman to graduate from a Canadian medical school.


In 1883 she opened the Ontario Medical College for Women, which was the first school of its kind in Canada. Her fight for women’s rights continued when she and her daughter held a mock parliament. This mock parliament switched things up by having women discuss why men should not have the right to vote.


Doctor Stowe passed away in 1903, more than a decade before any women were granted the right to vote. However, her contributions made a lasting impact on women in Canada to continue fighting for equality and the right to vote.

Jesse Kendall