The Hall

Frances Gertrude McGill 1877-1959

I was born in Minnedosa, Manitoba in 1877, growing up on my family's farm. As a teen, I attended Normal School in Winnipeg. Later I was accepted by the University of Manitoba. I was a pretty good student and graduated in Medicine in 1915, winning the gold medal for the highest academic standing and a prize for surgical history. After graduation I spent a year as an intern and was then invited to assist in the Manitoba Provincial Laboratory doing post-graduate work. In 1918 I became the Provincial Bacteriologist in Saskatchewan. Four years later I was surprised to be chosen the Provincial Pathologist, a post where I had to work closely with the RCMP in their investigation of suspicious deaths. In such a male dominated area, this was a very unusual honour at that time.

The nature of this work meant that I was often called at short notice to investigate a death and frequently had to give up weekends and other personal time. In 1934 alone I made 43 trips out of town on these investigations and travelled thousands of kilometres by means that included dogsled, snowmobile and float plane, often to have to deal with a grisly death scene when I arrived. I also had the opportunity to promote the scientific investigation of crime through lectures at the Police College in Regina. After retiring as Provincial Pathologist in 1942, I continued to work in private practice, primarily dealing with allergy problems. That was short lived as the following year I was asked to take over temporarily as head of the RCMP Crime Lab. You can imagine my surprise when, in 1946, I was made Honourary Surgeon to the RCMP - only the second person to ever hold such a distinction and the only woman, other than the Queen, to be given honourary membership in the Force.

In summing up my career I would say that I helped to demonstrate the importance of careful and accurate forensic pathology in bringing about the just conclusion of criminal cases. I am pleased to say that I gained the respect of my colleagues and of the police. Together we proved the need for this type of work to both find and convict the guilty and to exonerate the innocent. I could tell you many fascinating stories but I will leave that for another time.

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