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Did You Know? A timeline of women’s milestones at McGill

Here’s to McGill pioneers and provocateurs

Vintage photo of the McCall MacBain Arts Building

McGill University has been shaped, challenged, and enriched by women through much of its history. Here are just a handful of the countless individuals and events that have contributed to its success and impacted its future.

1888: McGill’s first female students graduate in 1888. All earned Bachelor of Arts degrees.

1910: Annie MacLeod, PhD 1910, becomes the first woman to earn a McGill PhD.

1912: Carrie Derick becomes Canada’s first female university professor at McGill. She taught botany.

1914: Annie MacDonald Langstaff, BCL 1914, is the first woman to graduate from McGill’s Faculty of Law. She fought a long legal battle for the right to take the bar examination, but was not admitted during her lifetime.  

1917: Women outnumber men in the Faculty of Arts for the first time.

1936: Dr. Maude Abbott, BA 1890, MDCM 1910, is the first woman admitted to McGill’s Faculty Club.

1960: Isabella McLennan leaves a generous bequest to McGill. She lends her name to the McLennan Library, which opens in 1969, and the Isabella McLennan scholarship, which is still awarded annually by the McGill Women’s Alumnae Association.

1977: The men’s and women’s athletics boards are combined as the McGill Athletics Board.
1991: McGill appoints its first female chancellor, Gretta Chambers, BA’47, DLitt’01.

2003: McGill appoints its first female principal, Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum, DSc’17.  

2016: Dr. Victoria Kaspi, BSc’89, is the first woman to win the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, the country’s most prestigious research prize. Kaspi is Director of the McGill Space Institute, as well as the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology, and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics.

2020: Jenni Sidey-Gibbons, BEng’11, joins the Canadian Astronauts Corps.

For more facts, we recommend Margaret Gillett’s We Walked Very Warily: A History of Women at McGill, published in 1981.

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