Changing the Pattern: The Story of Emily Stowe.
Sydell Waxman. Illustrated by Linda Potts.
Grades 3 - 8 / Ages 8 - 13.
When Emily Howard Jennings was born in 1831, girls' lives followed a set pattern. Some girls secretly dreamed of becoming doctors or lawyers. Others just wished for a good education. Their dreams remained empty wishes, unlikely to come true. In the Victorian age, every girl's future was limited to housework and child care.
Recently, I got into a discussion with my children about history, in general, and Canadian history, in particular, and I was disappointed to learn that it was their opinion that history was boring. In my opinion, history is exciting but it is the teaching of history that can be boring. Well, sad to say, Sydell Waxman proves me right.
Emily Howard Jennings is a true Canadian heroine. Fortunate to be born into a Quaker community that accepted women as equals, Emily received a good education and was trained to be a teacher, a profession at which she was very successful. But, despite her achievements, which were more than the nineteenth-century woman could reasonably hope for, Emily wanted to accomplish more.
Emily learned about homeopathic medicine from the Jennings' family friend, Dr. Joseph Lancaster, and, with the support of her husband John Stowe, she decided to try a new career. When she tried to enrol at the Toronto School of Medicine, however, she was told that women would never be accepted. Emily promised that one day women would have the same opportunities as men.
She went off to study homeopathic medicine at the New York Medical College for Women and, in 1867, she became Canada's first practising female physician. In 1871, in order to meet licensing requirements, Emily and Jenny Trout became the first women to attend lectures at the Toronto School of Medicine. This was a difficult period for both of them as both students and faculty went out of their way to embarrass and humiliate them. Emily failed and went back to practising without a licence. Jenny Trout tried again and became the first licensed female physician in Canada.
Emily Howard Jennings Stowe became one of Canada's leading feminists. She founded one of the earliest female suffrage groups and was instrumental in the mock parliament of 1896 where a parliament of women, using all of the arguments men had used against them, refused to give men the vote. She helped found the Women's Medical College in Toronto in 1883 and died in 1903, fourteen years before women got the vote in Canada.
Emily Howard Jennings Stowe deserves a better book than this. Despite the good use of quotes, photographs, side bars and Linda Potts' illustrations, author Sydell Waxman manages to turn the story of Emily Stowe into a boring recitation of incidents. Still, this book is technically well-written and well-researched and is recommended for those people, including children, interested in learning more about their history and, especially, the women's movement in Canada.
Recommended with reservations
Marsha Kaiserman is Head of Conferences Cataloguing at the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) in Ottawa.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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