Dr. Caroline Sophia Brown

Dr Caroline Sophia Brown
Dr. Caroline Brown, Toronto, 1925 [Photo: City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds]

My entry on Dr. Caroline Sophia Brown (1862-1936) is Biography of the Week at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Brown served as a physician in Toronto for over twenty-five years, including at Women’s College Hospital.

Brown was known for her keen intellect and tremendous vigour. Her irrepressible spirit is shown in the way she overcame obstacles at every stage. She began her career teaching public school but was inspired to pursue medicine. She attended medical lectures after her teaching day was over and stayed on into the evening to do dissections. She graduated from Ontario Medical College for Women (affiliated with Trinity Medical College) in 1900 and wrote her licensing examination the same year, but was told she failed to pass in all but two subjects. Undaunted, she continued to study and teach school for another nine years. When she prepared to retake her examination in 1909, officials reviewed her records and discovered that she had actually passed all the subjects in her first attempt!

Brown would go on to training in New York, Dublin, London, Birmingham, as well as in France and Germany, finally returning to Toronto where she worked in general surgery. She was the sole woman on the school board when she was elected as trustee in 1915. Her advocacy of women’s rights and her concern for the welfare of children are evident in her many achievements in education, medicine, and public service.