Jennie Smillie Robertson

First female surgeon in Canada

Born: 10 February 1878 near Hensall, Ontario
Died: 26 February 1981 in Toronto, Ontario

Jennie Smillie grew up on a farm near the village of Hensall, Ontario. To earn enough money to attend medical college, she taught at a rural school in Huron County, earning an annual salary of $300.

In 1903, Smillie enrolled in the Ontario Medical College for Women, which was later absorbed into the University of Toronto's medical school. She graduated in 1909 and then was forced to travel to Philadelphia to intern under a female surgeon.

Smillie's first operation in Canada was in a private home as no hospital would give operating privileges to a woman. Frustrated by this, she joined a group of female doctors and together they founded Women's College Hospital in Toronto, where she was Chief of Gynaecology from 1912 to 1942.

At age 70, she married Alex Robertson. Smillie said, "I first met the man I was to marry many years later, in 1898 while I was teaching. At that time, I was planning for medicine, not marriage, and didn't think I could have both." She died in a nursing home at the age of 103.

Additional trivia:

Robertson was the first woman to perform major gynecological surgery in Canada.

More information on:

Women's College Hospital

Sources include:

Herstory: The Canadian Women's Calendar


By Name · R
By Province · Ontario
By Claim to Fame · Medicine · Firsts
Group(s) · Women

Added 14 April 2002.