Elizabeth Bagshaw | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Elizabeth Bagshaw

Elizabeth Catherine Bagshaw, physician (born 18 October 1881 near Cannington, ON; died 5 January 1982 in Hamilton, ON). Bagshaw had a successful 70-year medical practice, specializing in family medicine and obstetrics (see Childbirth in Canada). She is perhaps best known for her work as the medical director of Canada’s first birth control clinic in Hamilton, Ontario (see History of Birth Control in Canada).

Education and Career

Elizabeth Bagshaw graduated with her medical degree from the Ontario Medical College for Women College in 1905. (See also University of Toronto.) By 1906, she established a practice in Hamilton, Ontario. Bagshaw would continue to work at the practice until her retirement in 1976.

Did you know?

Elizabeth Bagshaw was one of the founding members of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, alongside Maude Abbott and Jennie Smillie.

In addition to her medical practice, Bagshaw accepted the post of medical director of the Hamilton birth control clinic in 1932. This was Canada’s first birth control clinic. It operated despite 1892 legislation, which criminalized the distribution and sale of contraceptives and the dissemination of contraceptive information (see History of Birth Control in Canada). Bagshaw accepted the post at the clinic despite opposition from medical colleagues and local clergy. She worked with dedicated volunteers to provide Hamilton women with inexpensive and reliable contraceptives (see Birth Control in Canada). Bagshaw retained the post for over 30 years.


A Member of the Order of Canada, Bagshaw received numerous honours and awards throughout her long life, including an honorary doctorate from McMaster University. Her medical work and contributions towards women’s health were the subjects of a 1978 film produced by the National Film Board of Canada, entitled Doctor Woman: The Life and Times of Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw.

Honours and Awards

Further Reading

External Links