Dr. Emily Irvine (1858-1932)
During the Victorian era, middle class women faced barriers to employment. There were few “acceptable” jobs, like teacher, and women were generally expected to leave the profession when they married. When Trinity College at the University of Toronto introduced a Women’s Medical College in 1884, the initiative was widely ridiculed.
A few women ignored the mockery and enrolled, including Woodstock, Ontario resident Emily Irvine, who spent part of her childhood in Brampton.
These students faced adversity through to graduation day in 1890. The school administration was embarrassed to learn that the women had persevered. According to a historian, "the halls of learning reeked with hostility and satire." Irvine and the four other graduates received their degrees in a side room, from someone a historian described as “some subordinate functionary.”
Trinity College later granted a special degree to Irvine, recognizing her excellence in biology and pathology.
Dr. Emily Irvine practiced medicine in Brampton, then Toronto. She was “especially successful in the treatment of children’s diseases." Hearing impairment shortened her career. She retired from medicine, marrying a judge.