Jennie Trout | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jennie Trout

Jennie (Jenny) Kidd Trout, physician, teacher (born 21 April 1841 in Kelso, Scotland; died 10 November 1921 in Hollywood, California). Trout was the first female physician licensed to practice medicine in Canada. She received her licence from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario in 1875.

Jennie Trout, physician
Trout was the first woman licensed to practise medicine in Canada.

Childhood and Early Life

Jennie Trout (née Gowanlock) was born on 21 April 1841 in Kelso, Scotland. At the age of six, she immigrated with her family to Ellice Township, Ontario. Her mother, Elizabeth Kidd, and her father, Andrew Gowanlock, were farmers. Her family regularly attended the Presbyterian Church in Stratford. Trout attended the local public school, where she was a strong student.

Education and Early Career

In 1860, Jennie Trout moved to Toronto to attend the Normal School for Upper Canada. The Normal School was the only advanced school in Canada that accepted women at the time. After graduating in 1861, she returned to the Stratford area and began her first job as a teacher. Trout taught public school between 1861 and 1865.

On 25 August 1865, she married businessman Edward Trout in Stratford. They settled in Toronto. In 1867, Edward Trout founded a weekly financial journal called the Monetary Times, along with his brother, John Malcolm. The Trouts financially prospered. However, soon after marriage, Jennie Trout began to suffer from nervous disorders. She became housebound and was at times unable to move. She sought help from doctors and found some relief from her condition in the new field of electrotherapy. Trout’s illness and treatment inspired her to pursue medicine as a career.

Medical Study

Jennie Trout’s husband encouraged her dream of becoming a doctor by supporting her financially and emotionally. In 1869, Jennie and Edward Trout moved in with female physician Emily Stowe and her family at their home on Church Street in Toronto. Together, Trout and Stowe fought to attend the Toronto School of Medicine, where female students were not yet admitted. In 1871, Trout and Stowe were accepted and attended a one-year qualifying course at the school. Along with Stowe, Trout became one of the two first women to attend classes there. Although she faced opposition and hostility from some male students and professors, Trout passed her qualifying courses in 1872.

However, no medical schools in Canada accepted female students at the time. Trout left Toronto to attend the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). The college was a Christian institution with a focus on missions and missionary work. It also offered courses in electrotherapeutics. In her MD thesis, Trout wrote about the medical uses of the opium poppy. After three years of study, Trout graduated with an MD in 1875 and returned to Canada. Later that year, she passed the examinations of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario, becoming the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada. She remained the first licensed female doctor in Canada until Emily Stowe received her licence in 1880.

Medical Career

In 1875, Jennie Trout opened a medical practice in Toronto with her friend, Dr. Emily Amelia Tefft. Tefft was a fellow graduate of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. At their clinic, they specialized in treatments for women, including electrotherapy. Trout’s Christian faith also inspired her to open a free dispensary for patients who could not afford to pay. In order to help cover the costs of the free dispensary, Trout took on speaking engagements in cities such as Toronto, Hamilton, Brantford and Meaford. The speaking fees were not enough to cover the cost of the free dispensary, so it closed six months later in 1876.

In 1877, Trout and Tefft expanded their practice and opened the Medical and Electro-Therapeutic Institute on Jarvis Street (Toronto). There they used electricity and galvanic baths in their treatments for women. The clinic was located in six neighbouring houses on Jarvis Street. They treated approximately 40 patients each day.

The Medical and Electro-Therapeutic Institute proved to be very popular, so Trout and Tefft later opened clinics in Hamilton and Brantford. The clinics were run by female staff members, though a male doctor was hired in 1880 as a consulting physician. In 1882, the demands of Trout’s job took a toll on her health. That winter, she took a retreat in Florida due to deteriorating health. Later that year, she retired as a doctor at the age of 41.

Jennie Trout

Portrait of Jennie Kidd Trout (Ontario, ca. 1893–97)

Education for Women

After her retirement, Jennie Trout focused on advocating for medical education for Canadian women. In 1883, a group of doctors from the Toronto School of Medicine, led by Dr. Michael Barrett, were planning a new medical school for women in Toronto. Trout promised $10,000 of financial support on the condition that women formed the majority of trustees on the board and were allowed to teach on faculty. However, Barrett rejected Trout’s proposal.

Disappointed, Trout instead became involved with the creation of the Woman’s Medical College in Kingston, Ontario. The college was affiliated with Queen’s University. Trout became a trustee and benefactor by donating $10,000.

Later that year, Dr. Barrett changed his position on the Toronto school, and Emily Stowe became involved in founding the Toronto School of Medicine. The Toronto School opened in October 1883, and the Women’s Medical College in Kingston opened the very next day. The two colleges were rivals until 1894, when the Toronto School of Medicine and the Women’s Medical College (Kingston) united to become the Ontario Medical College for Women in Toronto.


After her retirement, Jennie Trout grew interested in bible study and became involved in Christian mission work overseas. Trout was also involved in the temperance movement. She acted as vice-president and later president of the Women’s Temperance Union. She was also the vice-president of the Association for the Advancement of Women.

Jennie Trout Postage Stamp

Jennie K. Trout, physician,1841–1921

Later Life and Legacy

In 1903, Jennie Trout and her husband bought some land in Florida and built a winter home there. They split their time between their homes in Florida and Toronto. The couple also adopted their great-niece and great-nephew after they became orphaned. In 1908, the Trout family moved permanently to the United States, settling in Hollywood, California. Trout died on 10 November 1921 in Hollywood. In 1991, Canada Post released a postage stamp in her honour.

Further Reading

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