McGill, Frances (1882–1959)

Frances McGill was among the first Canadian women to become a pathologist, and for four decades enjoyed a reputation as a leading criminologist. Born in rural Manitoba on November 18, 1882, she completed her education in Winnipeg, including Normal School. She taught school during the summers to help finance studies at Manitoba Medical College, where she was one of the earliest women to graduate (1915). She then took a post-graduate course that included a stint in the Provincial Laboratory and work in forensic medicine. In 1918 McGill came to Regina when she was appointed Provincial Bacteriologist in Saskatchewan. In 1920 she was named Provincial Pathologist, and in 1922 was appointed director of the Saskatchewan Laboratories, positions she held until her retirement in 1942. McGill’s duties came to include forensic pathology work for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). It took several criminal cases before the RCMP acknowledged that her expertise could save them from conflicting medical advice, and ordered that she be called immediately if a sudden death exhibited the slightest signs of foul play. She also helped establish the first RCMP Crime Detection Laboratory, and taught Forensic Medicine at their Regina Training Barracks. On January 16, 1946, Frances McGill became the first woman appointed by the Canadian Minister of Justice as Honorary Surgeon to the RCMP. She died in Winnipeg on January 21,1959. Saskatchewan honoured McGill by naming a lake after her.

Myrna Petersen


Further Reading

Hacker, C. 1974. The Indomitable Lady Doctors. Toronto and Vancouver: Clarke, Irwin & Company.