Fonds WCH-GRA - Dr. Jessie Gray fonds

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Dr. Jessie Gray fonds

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  • 1940-1978 (Creation)
    Gray, Jessie Catherine, 1910-1978

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13 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

Fondly remembered as Canada's "First Lady of Surgery," Dr. Jessie Gray was a trailblazer for medical women in the field of surgery. Dr. Gray inspired a new generation of female surgeons, proving that women could not just perform in the field of general surgery, a field dominated by men, but could excel.

Born on August 26, 1910 in Augusta, Georgia, Jessie Catherine Gray came to Toronto with her family at the age of two. She attended the University of Toronto, graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in 1931. She continued on at the University and earned a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1934. She was the first woman to receive the Faculty of Medicine's gold medal for highest academic standing.

The career of Dr. Jessie Gray is full of firsts for women in the field of surgery. After completing two internships at Toronto General Hospital (1934-1936), she became the first woman to be accepted into the distinguished Gallie Course in General Surgery in 1936. In 1939, she earned a Master of Surgery degree at the University of Toronto. DR. Gray was the first woman in Canada to achieve this qualification.

After spending a year as an intern at St. Mary's Hospital in Manchester, England, Dr. Jessie Gray returned to Toronto in 1940 to accept a surgical residency at Toronto General Hospital. She was the first woman resident surgeon in the Hospital's history.

Dr. Jessie Gray joined the staff of Women's College Hospital as its Associate Surgeon-in-Chief in 1941 and, in 1946, she was appointed Chief of Surgery, a position that she would hold until her retirement in 1965. At Women's College Hospital, Dr. Gray helped to develop Canada's first cancer detection clinic. At the time, she was considered to be one of the top four cancer surgeons in North America.

In 1941, Dr. Gray became the first woman to be awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. She was also the first woman member of the Central Surgical Society of North America (1948). In 1951, she earned she earned a Fellowship of the American College of Surgeons and was the first woman to address its annual congress (1952). In 1954, Dr. Gray received the Elizabeth Blackwell Citation of the New York Infirmary, an award named in honour of the first woman to graduate medical school in the United States.

Dr. Gray held various teaching appointments at the University of Toronto during her career, and was an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery in the Faculty of Medicine from 1953-1964. She was promoted to Assistant Professor of Surgery from 1964 until her retirement in 1965.

After her retirement, Dr. Gray became the first woman appointed to the Science Council of Canada in 1966 and was made a Life Fellow of the Academy of Medicine in 1968. In 1973 she received the Civic Award of Merit from the City of Toronto.

Dr. Jessie Gray died at Women's College Hospital on October 16, 1978 after a long illness.

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Scope and content

The fonds contains the primarily professional records of Dr. Jessie Gray and is comprised of correspondence and speeches. Obituaries have been added to the fonds.

The fonds is arranged in 11 series: submissions to publications; correspondence; directories; panel discussion on general practitions; speeches, 1940-1949; panel discussion; speeches, 1950-1959; speeches, 1960-1969; Science Council of Canada; retirement and obituaries; and diplomas.

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