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Maude Abbott

Dr. Maude Seymour Elizabeth Abbott was among one of the first Canadian women to receive a higher education. She had wanted to study medicine at McGill but was forced to settle for Bishop’s University as she lived in a time where society was only just beginning to accept women who wanted to practice medicine. Despite the barriers set before her, Dr. Abbott succeeded in her studies and became a universally respected pathologist.

Born on March 18th, 1869, in Saint Andrews East, Quebec, Dr. Abbott did not have an easy life. Without parents present to raise her, she and her sister were legally adopted by their maternal grandmother. In 1890, she graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor’s Degree from the Faculty of Arts but was not permitted to complete her M.D. there. She moved to Bishop’s University and received her M.D., C.M. with honours in 1894. She was the only woman in her class. She also received the Chancellor’s Prize, and Senior Anatomy Prize for having the best final examination.

After her studies, she returned to Montreal and practiced medicine, opening her own practice and working with the Royal Victoria Hospital. She even became the first woman to be nominated and elected into the Montreal Medico-Chirurgical Society. She later opened an independent clinic for the treatment of women and children and it was there that she did most of the first-hand research in pathology that led to her becoming a world authority on heart defects. She was eventually invited to write a chapter on ‘Congenital Heart Disease’ for Dr. Osler’s System of Modern Medicine. The article she produced is one of the things that caused her to be recognised as an expert in her field.

She was eventually awarded a honorary medical degree by McGill and was made a lecturer in Pathology, this happened 8 years before the university even began accepting women into the faculty of medicine as students. In 1925, she became an Assistant Professor at the university and remained there until her retirement in 1936.

In addition to her contributions to the field of medicine, Dr. Abbott was one of the founders of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada and of the International Association of Medical Museums. She was the curator for the McGill Pathological Museum for many years. Dr. Maude Abbott died in 1940 in Montreal and is remembered posthumously through her many works. In 1943, she was the only Canadian and the only woman painted into Diego Rivera’s famous mural commemorating the innovators of cardiology.



Image Source: Wm. Notman & Son., McCord Museum. Taken from

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