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Wild, Marjorie.

Markham (Ont.), Fitzhenry & Whiteside, c1984. 63pp, paper, $3.95, ISBN 0-88902-688-2. (The Canadians) CIP

Grades 6 and up
Reviewed by Lois Hird

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

During a career that spanned seven decades, Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw practiced medicine in only one city Hamilton, Ontario. She did not acquire wide international recognition, but she received the Canada Medal along with other honours for her local work.

She made her decision to become a doctor because "none of the ordinary choices appealed to her," writes Marjorie Wild in this short biography. The book contains good descriptions of life in medical school as the twentieth century dawned, the work of a private practitioner, and activities surrounding the opening of Canada's first birth control clinic.

Dr. Bagshaw grew up on an Ontario farm. A teenage friend told her about women doctors and "the idea was too intriguing to resist." Only one rough spot marred her academic studies, her father's death, but she continued her studies.

There were few women doctors at that time, but she served a preceptorship (a type of internship) under one and replaced another during vacation. It was the latter job that took her to Hamilton from Toronto. She set up her own private practice, making house calls day and night when smallpox and tuberculosis were still common and aspirin was a new drug. During Prohibition, she encountered bootlegging activities and wrote medicinal liquor prescriptions, while adhering to a temperance philosophy.

She kept up an active community life but suffered a defeat in her one try for political office. She remained single; however, in midlife she adopted the infant son of a relative, following its mother's death.

Wild writes, "She was making her own choices, acting on her own decisions, at a time when most women were still looking to men for the major decisions of life." None of her decisions had such significant implications as the one to accept the position of medical director at the birth control clinic in Hamilton in 1932.

Wild does not try to analyse the doctor's contributions, but simply relates the story of her life. There are several pictures, but no private letters or papers are included in the text. The book is well worth reading to discover how a person accomplished a youthful desire and influenced society, without making dramatic waves. Recommended for school and public libraries.

Lois Hird, Calgary, Alta.
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