Memorable Manitobans: Jessie Margaret McGavin (1866-1952)
Born at Paisley, Bruce County, Ontario in 1866, she was one of nine children born to saddler James McGavin (1813-1877) and Elizabeth Wright (1838-1904). Her parents emigrated to Canada in 1854, separately, and married in June 1859 at Fergus, Ontario. When she was ten years old, her father died and her mother moved the family to Manitoba. They homesteaded at Prairie Grove, Selkirk, Manitoba to be close to Elizabeth’s brother, Archibald Wright. She was educated in the Prairie Grove area and further studies in Winnipeg qualified her to teach school at Plympton, Manitoba for two years, until about 1890.
In 1891 she began medical training at the Woman’s Medical School of Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois). She graduated as an MD in 1895. In 1907-08 she furthered her medical education at the Vienna School of Medicine, now the University of Vienna, and specialized in diseases of children. She returned to the United States in 1908 and settled at Portland, Oregon where she was employed as a physician by the Florence Crittenton Mission (now the Florence Crittenton Foundation) for more than twenty years. A mandate of the Mission at that time was to provide shelter and education for unmarried women and their children, most of the women being prostitutes.
She was one of Portland’s first public school physicians. She was a member of the WCTU and an active member of the suffragette movement in Portland, particularly in 1912. She both knew, and protested with, Esther Pohl and Kate Meade, who were significant leaders of the suffragette movement during that time. She was instrumental in encouraging her two younger brothers, Andrew McGavin and Hugh McGavin, to pursue their own careers in medicine and was known to have remarked on more than one occasion that they ‘couldn’t be real doctors if they did not own a microscope’.
She never married or had children and passed away at Portland in 1952. She was cremated and her ashes were buried beside her mother at Prairie Grove Cemetery.
Ontario Births, Library and Archives Canada.
United States Death Index.
Archives, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.
Archives, Portland Health and Science University.
Obituary notice, photograph, burial information; McGavin family archives.
This page was prepared by Brenda Wardrop Miller.
Page revised: 8 May 2017
Back to top of page