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GREENAWAY, MINERVA MARGARET, physician; b. 1873 or 1874 in Tottenham, Ont., eldest of the five children of Thomas Montgomery Greenaway and Matilda Totten; d. 27 Sept. 1906 in Toronto.

Minerva Margaret Greenaway was among Canada’s first generation of pioneering women doctors. The daughter of Wesleyan Methodist farmers, she was born at the Simcoe County homestead originally settled by her paternal grandparents in the early 1840s. The village of Tottenham is believed to have been named after her maternal grandfather, Alexander Totten, who had immigrated to Canada as a child, in the 1830s, together with his widowed mother and five young brothers and sisters. Minerva attended school locally and taught for a short time in Tecumseth Township before embarking on a career in medicine in her early twenties.

Entering the field of medicine in the late 19th century was not an easy task for women. The founding of separate women’s medical colleges in 1883 in Toronto [see Emily Howard Jennings] and Kingston [see Jennie Kidd Gowanlock*] facilitated their entry into the profession by preparing them for examinations at the university medical faculties. But gender discrimination within the profession continued to prevent the appointment of women doctors to staff positions at most medical institutions. Undaunted, Greenaway chose to pursue a career in medicine and entered the Ontario Medical College for Women in Toronto in the fall of 1894. On 31 May 1899 she obtained her md, cm degree with first-class honours from Trinity University and she spent the following year in postgraduate work at the West Philadelphia Hospital for Women.

Upon her return to Toronto, Dr Greenaway commenced private practice at her residence on Church Street. In 1902 she joined the faculty of the Ontario Medical College for Women as lecturer in physiology and assistant demonstrator in anatomy. She subsequently held the position of lecturer in the diseases of children until the closing of the college in the spring of 1906, when women students finally obtained admission to the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto. Dr Greenaway also lectured to the nurses at the Toronto Orthopedic Hospital and, from 1903 to 1904, was on staff at the Dispensary for Women, an out-patient clinic associated with the women’s medical college and operated by women physicians.

Like many of Canada’s early women doctors, Minerva Greenaway played an active role in advancing the position of women in medicine. She was honorary president of the students’ association at the Ontario Medical College for Women from 1902 to 1903 and, at the time of her death, she was secretary of the alumnae association of the women’s medical college. Throughout 1902 she participated in the work of the women’s hospital committee. This group, composed of female and male physicians, trustees, and lay supporters associated with the women’s medical college, was formed in 1899 to further the establishment of a women’s hospital in Toronto. Shortly thereafter the committee was approached by Toronto Western Hospital regarding the possible appointment of women physicians. Western’s offer was considered “inexpedient” by the committee, however, because it did not guarantee full and equal rights for women on its medical staff, or the creation of a separate women’s department where female patients would be attended only by women physicians. Following the failure of these negotiations, the committee promoted the appointment of women physicians to Toronto’s existing hospitals. In 1902 Dr Greenaway, together with Dr Jennie Gray and Dr Emma Leila Skinner, investigated the possibility of obtaining staff appointments for women at the Toronto General Hospital. Once again, negotiations proved not to be in the best interest of women physicians and the committee abandoned its proposal that spring. Frustrations in securing positions for women doctors in Toronto hospitals would eventually lead to the founding of Women’s College Hospital in 1911, when the Dispensary for Women was converted into an in-patient facility. The only hospital in Canada to be staffed entirely by women and administered by a predominantly female board of governors, it served an exclusively female clientele until the 1920s, standing as testimony to the pioneering spirit of turn-of-the-century women doctors such as Minerva Greenaway.

Dr Greenaway’s life was tragically cut short in the fall of 1906 when, after nursing her father and two sisters who had contracted typhoid, she herself succumbed to the disease in her 33rd year. The Canadian Journal of Medicine and Surgery noted that her passing “removes one of the most accomplished and beloved lady doctors of the Dominion.”

Lykke de la Cour

AO, RG 55, 1-2-B, liber 36: f.9. Medical College of Pa, Arch. and Special Coll. on Women in Medicine (Philadelphia), West Philadelphia Hospital for Women and Children, acc. no.1 (regular monthly meeting, minutes, 1899–1901): 97. NA, RG 31, C1, 1891, Tottenham, Ont. Women’s College Hospital Arch. (Toronto), Ontario Medical College for Women, ser.A7, container 7 (annual announcements, 1896–1904); Women’s College Hospital and Dispensary Committee, minute-book, March 1899–January 1908. Daily Mail and Empire, 29 Sept. 1906: 6. News (Toronto), 28 Sept. 1906: 1, 11. Canada Lancet, 40 (1906–7): 278. Canadian Journal of Medicine and Surgery (Toronto), 20 (July–December 1906): 359. Canadian Practitioner and Medical Rev. (Toronto), 31 (1906): 579. Cemetery inscriptions of Tecumseth and West Gwillimbury (Tottenham, 1982). Lykke de la Cour and Rose Sheinin, “The Ontario Medical College for Women, 1883–1906: lessons from gender-separatism in medical education,” Canadian Woman Studies (Downsview [Toronto]), 7 (1986), no.3: 73–77. Carlotta Hacker, The indomitable lady doctors (Toronto, 1974). Augusta Stowe Gullen, “A brief history of the Ontario Medical College for Women, 1906,” Canadian Journal of Medicine and Surgery, 65 (January–June 1929): 82–88. V. [J.] Strong-Boag, “Canada’s women doctors: feminism constrained,” A not unreasonable claim (L. Kealey), 109–29. Women and medicine in Toronto since 1883: a who’s who (Toronto, 1987), comp. Rose Sheinin and Alan Bakes.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Lykke de la Cour, “GREENAWAY, MINERVA MARGARET,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 28, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/greenaway_minerva_margaret_13E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/greenaway_minerva_margaret_13E.html
Author of Article: Lykke de la Cour
Title of Article: GREENAWAY, MINERVA MARGARET
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1994
Year of revision: 1994
Access Date: August 28, 2014