In the nineteenth century, women had limited or no chance to practice medicine. Women’s College Hospital was established to offer medically trained women the opportunity to practice medicine at a time when their access to the profession was limited. Throughout our history we have maintained our focus on women’s health and on the recognition of women’s special health-care needs. This makes us a unique institution in Canada.
The history of Women’s College Hospital begins in 1883, when, in response to the University of Toronto’s refusal to admit women for the study of medicine, Dr. Emily Stowe and a group of like minded people pushed for and founded Woman’s Medical College at 289 Sumach Street. This operated until, in 1905, the University of Toronto finally opened its doors to women and that was only in limited numbers. In 1916, due to the shortage of men (most were in the army) the doors opened a bit. The writer’s mother enrolled that year. It was the first year that the Faculty of Medicine had enough students for a Women’s Hockey team. Today over half the students are women.
In 1909, a group of Toronto women started work to establish what was to become the Women’s College Hospital late in 1913. This modest hospital, at 18 Seaton Street, opened with only seven beds, but it demonstrated that a hospital run by women, for women, could be a success.
This first hospital soon operated at capacity, so a second hospital was opened in 1915 at 125 Rusholme Road in a three-storey house, with 25 beds and 10 cots for children. With larger facilities specialized treatment were possible including an x-ray department. During the 1920s, plans were developed for a well-designed modern hospital. In 1935, the hospital moved to its present location at 76 Grenville Street. It was 10-storeys tall with 140 beds and 45 infant cots. Women’s College Hospital had made itself a leader in women’s health care in Canada. In the following decades it had two major expansions: South Wing opened in 1956 and the East Wing, in 1971.
In 1998, the Ontario government of the day decided to amalgamated three formerly stand-alone institutions: Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, Women’s College Hospital and Orthopaedic and Arthritic Hospital. This lasted until 2005, when a new government decided that Women’s College Hospital would again become a self-governed health-care facility, and further that it would be recognized as a Centre of Excellence in Women’s Health.
For more about Women’s College Hospital see its website: www.womenscollegehospital.ca from which most of this information was obtained.