Carrie Derick

Fighting For Equality

A determined scientist who blazed the trail for women in university, Derick refused to settle for less than her male colleagues. She became the first female Canadian professor after years of struggle, earning her colleagues’ respect and recognition.

A very intelligent and charismatic student, Derick began teaching when she was 15, prior to getting her teaching degree from McGill four years later. In spite of being a successful teacher, she felt her talents did not measure up to her achievements, so she enrolled at McGill University in 1889 to further her studies, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts the following year, achieving the highest GPA at McGill that year. She received awards in many fields, as well as the Logan Gold Medal in Natural Sciences.

She continued to pursue a Masters in Botany, leading to her being hired as McGill’s first female botany demonstrator. However, she felt undervalued, since the job was only part-time, and the job did not match her qualifications. While she made $250 per year, her male colleagues with the same qualifications made up to 3 times her salary. She also had to teach math and science at Montreal’s Trafalgar Institute to earn a minimum wage. She completed her Masters in 1896. Following much debate, she was appointed to a full-time lecturing position with a salary similar to her male colleagues.

When her mentor and colleague became ill, she assumed his teaching position, but for less pay. When he died in 1910 she ran the department until 1912, when an American botanist, Francis Lloyd, was appointed Chair of the Botany Department. To appease the objections of many of her colleagues, she was appointed Professor of Morphological Botany, becoming the first Canadian woman appointed to the position of professor. However, the field was outside her expertise, and she fought the administration of the University. After voicing her displeasure of their treatment, the university reluctantly allowed her to assume full professor duties.

Outside of her academic achievements, Derick championed many causes in her time, such as birth control, care for disabled children and suffrage. She is remembered as a woman who blazed the trail for Canadian women in science.

ligne blanche

Download a high-resolution PDF of this poster. Recommended print size is 11X17 inches.

ligne blanche

Back to Posters