• Women at Home
    and Women
    at Work

    Have you ever wondered what goes through someone’s mind when they are asked the dreaded cocktail hour..

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  • A Just World?

    I was raped. It was no urban legend. No deranged stranger jumped out of a dark alley to attack me on my way home from bible study...

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  • Wellness and You

    Work gets in the way, family gets in the way, volunteer commitments get in the way, and occasionally the television and sofa get in the way too...

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Panty Raid

It has recently come to my attention that some women coordinate their bras and panties. And they don't just match colours, they buy the sets together...

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Florence Booth House, Toronto

Located in the downtown core, Florence Booth House was opened in 2000 with the intent of being a temporary shelter for that winter. In February of this year, we celebrated our 7th anniversary, proving the need is still very real...

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Champagne with Potato Chips?

You really can drink wine with just about anything, according to a new web site devoted to food and wine pairings. Zinfandel with your Tex-Mex? Not a problem. A little Chardonnay with your fried chicken take-out? Delicious. Pinot Noir and wild boar? Why not, says Natalie MacLean...

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News & Events

Eating Between the Lines: Health and Literacy (Connections for Canadians)

42% of Canadians struggle with basic reading and writing. The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) (1995;2003) shows strong links among literacy skills, employment and poverty, and thus health...

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Think Before You Go Pink

The Breast Cancer Action (BCA) group wants consumers to think about how much money is actually going to the “cure” before purchasing something with a little pink ribbon on it...

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Do you Fancy Cat Sitting

My ideal holiday involves sun, by a pool, a never-ending supply of chilled diet coke, and a sky-high pile of novels to read while the stresses of home and school evaporate...

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Women and Education: A Hard-Won Tradition in Canada



Women have long been a part of the education process in Canada. In the mid-1600s, Marguerite Bourgeoys (who later founded the Congregation of Notre Dame, the first group of uncloistered nuns in North America) was the first school-teacher in Montreal. By the early 1800s, schools employed women to teach young children all over the country, although usually at half the salary men were being paid.

Despite their long-time role in providing basic education to children, the doors to higher education for women remained closed until the late 1800s. Canada’s Maritime region proved to be one of the more liberal-minded. Sackville, New Brunswick’s Mount Allison College (now University) was the first to open those doors to women in 1872. Previously, Mount Allison Ladies’ Academy, established in 1854, gave women a limited choice in higher education – domestic science and music.

Mount Allison College gave Grace Annie Lockhart the chance to become the first woman to earn a university degree, not only in Canada, but in the British Empire. On May 25th, 1875, Lockhart received a Bachelor of Science and English Literature. Other universities in Canada soon followed suit and opened their doors to women as well. Women, however, were still encouraged to take Arts courses rather than sciences, as they were considered more ladylike.

It was also at about this same time that Emily Jennings Stowe became the first woman doctor in Canada. Most Canadians will recall the one minute Heritage Moment featuring Stowe and Jennie Trout. Having found the doors closed to her when applying to medical school in Toronto, Stowe went to the United States, where there were medical colleges for women, and received her degree there. After returning to Canada, Stowe soon found the law had changed, requiring her to attend a semester of lectures at a Canadian institution before she could practice. She was forced to apply to the University of Toronto several times before gaining grudging admittance along with Trout. Stowe was finally allowed to practice medicine in Ontario in 1871.

Medical sciences were not often seen as a respectable career choice for women. While some universities opened their doors to women medical students, they often closed them again soon after. Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario was one of the last to reopen their doors to women medical students in 1943.

Today, however, women are graduating from Canadian institutions by the hundreds of thousands annually with all kinds of degrees. Indeed, women are even exceeding the numbers of men in many Canadian universities. Both the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto, two of Canada’s largest universities, recently reported ratios of 43 men to 57 women in attendance. Lockhart and Stowe would be proud, nearly a century and a half later.