Margaret B. Cruickshank, M.D., Waimate, (1873-1918)

Photo taken by A. Todd, Feb. 2008.

‘The Beloved Physician
Faithful unto Death.’

A memoriam for victims of the 1918 pandemic influenza.

New Zealand's first registered woman doctor, Margaret Barnett Cruickshank, MB ChB NZ 1897, MD NZ 1903. Registered as a doctor 3 May 1897.  After sixteen years Dr Cruickshank left Waimate on January 1913 on twelve months leave to and gained further qualifications in Edinburgh and Dublin. Born in Palmerston, Otago 1 Jan 1873. Joint dux with her twin sister of Otago Girls' High School. 2nd woman med. graduate University of New Zealand but 1st registered first and to practice. Commenced work at Waimate and died there on Thursday 28 November 1918, aged 45, of pneumonia from influenza during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Dr Cruickshank was already tried and overworked but she responded magnificently to the needs of the district. When her driver fell ill she travelled by bicycle or horse and gig to attend to her patients. She not only gave medical care to her patients but attended to any of their urgent domestic tasks such as feeding babies and milking cows. She was one of fourteen New Zealand doctors who lost their lives during the pandemic, and one of the seventeen people who died in Waimate. The people of Waimate lined the streets as her cortege passed. She had been 22 years in Waimate, where she was greatly esteemed for personal as well as professional qualities. In gratitude for her work, a marble statue was erected in the town in 1923. The statue's inscription - "The beloved physician, faithful until death". This life-sized monument was carved in 1922-1923 by William T. Trethewey, a stone mason, from Christchurch, out of a five-ton piece of marble imported from Carrara, Italy and is found in Seddon Park in Waimate. He used photographs to capture a likeness of Dr Cruickshank, that pleased Waimate people, and was paid £800 for the work. Fine examples of his work are the Captain Cook statue, Victoria Square, Christchurch and the Christchurch War Memorial in Cathedral Square. She holds a bible in her hand and is depicted clad in an academic gown.  2700mm high (8.8' feet). It is rare to see a monument to a women in New Zealand other than Queen Victoria. The new maternity ward was named "The Margaret Cruickshank" ward.

She qualified doctor at a time when few women took up the profession.

Otago Witness, 4 February 1897, Page 29
Official intimation has been received from the Registrar of the New Zealand University that Margaret B. Cruickshank and Arthur E. A. Palmer, M.A., have passed the final professional examination for the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. Dr Palmer has been appointed assistant house surgeon at Dunedin.

Otago Witness, 18 March 1897, Page 36
To Dr Margaret B. Cruickshank belongs this honor of being the first of the New Zealand qualified lady to commence the practice of her profession, she having joined Dr Barclay in practice at Waimate. Miss Siedeberg was the first to take her degree, but she is at present in Edinburgh. Dr Cruickshank gained an Education Board scholarship from the Palmerston District High School, and after leaving the Girls' High School passed with credit the medical school examinations obtaining the degree of M.B., Ch.B.

Wanganui Herald, 22 March 1897, Page 2
Waimate has a lady doctor, Dr Margaret B Cruickshank, M.D., C.I.B., who obtained her diplomas in New Zealand and passed all her examinations creditably, who has commenced practice there in conjunction with Dr Herbert C. Barclay, M.D., F.R.C.S., Ep.

Otago Witness, 15 July 1897, Page 43
OTAGO UNIVERSITY. GRADUATION CEREMONY. The annual graduation ceremony was held on Friday evening in the presence of a large number of persons. The chair was taken by Mr E. B. Cargill, the vice-chancellor. We are here to-night to celebrate the twenty seventh session of the University of Otago, and to hand over to the successful students their diplomas in the New Zealand University. Diplomas.— Miss M. B. Cruickshank, M.B., B.Ch , Mr A. E. A. Palmer, M.B., B.Ch. The graduates, on stepping forward, were received with applause, which was especially enthusiastic in the cases of Miss Benjamin and Miss Cruickshank. [Dr Palmer will commence his professional practice at Greytown, in the North Island.]

Miss E. R. Benjamin, LL.B., who was warmly received, returned thanks on behalf of the new graduates. She said .. But I knew that little would be expected from me, and even if I succeeded in talking nonsense, the charitable verdict would be, " Oh, well, it is all that can be expected from a woman." — (Laughter.) This is the very first time I have spoken in public.... On an occasion like the present it will not, I think, be out of place for me to say a few words touching the advancement of our women, and the opening to them of the doors to professions - hitherto kept fast locked against them. Last year our first lady doctor, Dr Emily Siedeberg, graduated from our university, and this year Dr Margaret B. Cruickshank has not only taken her degree in medicine, but has actually commenced practising in conjunction with Dr Barclay, of Waimate. Less than five years ago, when I announced my intention of studying, law, I was informed, to my surprise, that a woman could not be admitted as a barrister or solicitor ; and when I persisted in going through the prescribed course people said I was wasting the best years of my life, and that it was absurd even to think of women being admitted to the practice of the law. But I felt certain that such flagrant injustice could not continue,  and recent events have proved that I was right. Two years ago Mr G. W. Russell, then member for Riccarton, gave notice, "amid laughter " of a bill empowering women to practise law. Last year The Female Law Practitioners Bill was again introduced by Mr Russell. It passed the House of Representatives, but was thrown out by the Council. Again it was introduced by the Hon. W. M. Boil, passed the Council by a narrow majority, and was in due course enrolled I amongst our statutes of 1896.
    There are now few professions or occupations that have not been invaded by our women. New Zealand has her lady butcher, her lady commercial travellers, her lady auctioneer, her lady opticians, her lady dentists, her lady watchmakers, even her lady blacksmiths. Time does not permit me to further enumerate the occupations which are now taken up by our women, and in which until quite recently they were unknown. And is it well that women should make such an inroad into the fields of labour? In my humble opinion undoubtedly it is well. What does Isaac Zangwill say on the subject ? He says : "The women of the future is simply the working woman. All we really want is to make girls economically independent of marriage — able to choose their mates from love instead of selling themselves for a home. Formerly women were compelled to marry that they might not have lived in vain. How dreaded was the thought of "being on the shelf," and for how many unhappy marriages has this same dread been responsible! But now women's lives are becoming fuller, freer. They have at last come forward and claimed their right to work as and how they will. The struggle for their rights is not yet ended. It is growing keener and keener day by day and year by year. For centuries women have submitted to the old unjust order of things, but at last they have rebelled, and as Sarah Grand has it : "It is the rebels who extend the boundary of right ; little by little, narrowing the confines of wrong and crowding it out of existence." Before concluding I must pay a tribute to higher education. Higher education has done much for us women. In bygone years the intellectual life of women was, as a general rule, starved out of existence. The heart only was developed and often at how great a cost! But here I, would sound a warning note. Let us see to its that we go not to the other extreme — that our women do not become mere thinking machines; or worse even still, that over-cultivation does not destroy that individuality which every man and woman should prize above all else. The heart must be developed as well as brain. The ideal new woman will perfect herself body, mind, and soul. Time does not permit of my saying more. Already I have trespassed further on your good nature than I had intended, I have only now to thank you for your kind attention, and once more to express on behalf of this year's graduates from the University of Otago our appreciation of the hearty congratulations and good wishes tendered to us to-night by our chairman, Mr Cargill.........

Other newspaper snippets

North Otago Times, 7 January 1886, Page 2
For the 10 senior scholarships offered by the Education Board for competition, Emma Ramforth, of the Dunedin Girls High School, was second on the list, and Janet King, of Oamaru North, was eleventh, for the junior scholarships Margaret B. Cruickshank and Christina Cruickshank, of Palmerston, were first and second.

Otago Witness, 17 December 1891, Page 17
Dux of the Dunedin Girls' High School (Board of Governors Gold Medal).— Christina Murray Cruickshank and Margaret Barnett Cruickshank, equal.

M. Barnett Cruickshank (Otago) B.A. 1897, Ch.B 1897, M.D. 1903
Christina Cruickshank (Otago), B.B. 1895, M.A. 1896, B.Sc. 1900, M.Sc. 1906

Otago Witness, 16 September 1908, Page 39
Ambulance Classes. — Dr Edwin C. Hayes; the examiner of the Christchurch Centre of St. John Ambulance Association, reports the following members of Dr M.B. Cruickshank's "Home Nursing" Classy conducted by her in connection with the Nukuroa Sub-centre, Studholme, have passed the examination Wednesday for the certificate of the association: — Mrs Sophia Duncan, 66 percent. ; Miss Sarah Magdalene Mellon, 90 percent.; Miss Ellen Eileen O'Connor, 75 percent.; and Miss Jessie Roberts, 78 percent. Dr Hayes adds that owing to a large majority of the class not having first aid certificates, and the presence of so much scarlet fever in the district preventing others from attending the examination, only five out of a total membership of 25 presented themselves. These few, however, reflected great credit on themselves and the lecturer. They had a good theoretical knowledge of their work, but, what is better, a sound, practical knowledge.

Evening Post, 10 January 1912, Page 7
Mr. George Cruickshank, who died recently at Shag Valley, Otago, at the age of 74 years, came to New Zealand from Australia in 1868, and after working at the Dunstan diggings, settled at Shag Valley. In 1881 he was appointed road engineer to the Waiheino County and detained that position till April, 1910. His daughters, (the eldest being twins) are: Dr. Margaret Cruickshank, of Waimate, and Miss Christina Cruickshank, principal, of Wanganui College, whose education careers were remarkable; Mrs. Philips, wife of Dr. Philips, of Kumara ; Mrs. John Steel, Ngapara; and Sister Isabel Cruickshank, late, of Dunedin Hospital staff.

She witnessed the will of Clifford Clapcott Barclay of Waimate Stock agent Stock agent, Sherman St., Waimate

Tribute to a Woman Doctor Kai Tiaki: the Journal of the Nurses of New Zealand, April 1923, Page 59 

Press, 28 April 1919, Page 5
The medical practice of Drs. Barclay and Cruickshank has been purchased by Dr. Stuart Scoular, a New Zealander recently back from three years' active service, and formerly senior house surgeon at the Wellington Hospital.

 "Florence Nightingale of the South"

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project