Jennie Smillie Robertson

Section 32, Lot 50
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto

Born on a farm near Hensall, Ontario, February 10, 1878, Jennie Smillie’s first job was as a teacher in Huron County. Out of her annual salary of $300, she saved enough to enrol in the Ontario Medical College for Women at 291 Sumach Street, a few doors north of Gerrard. The college closed the following year and classes were integrated into the University of Toronto’s Medical School, all except for anatomy classes. Many more years were to pass before both male and female students were to study anatomy together, on the campus at least. After her graduation in 1909, and since none of the city hospitals were yet ready to accept women doctors, the thirty-one-year-old doctor was forced to intern in a Philadelphia hospital. Even after she returned to Toronto, the local hospitals were still reluctant to give her operating privileges.
   In 1911, Dr. Smillie and several other female doctors banded together and opened the city’s original Women’s College Hospital in a rented house on Seaton Street. Canada’s first woman surgeon didn’t get around to marriage until shortly after her retirement. Then, at the age of 70 she traded vows with childhood sweetheart, Alex Robertson. Dr. Jennie Smillie Robertson died in a nursing home on February 26, 1981.

Mike Filey
Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide
Second Edition Revised and Expanded

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