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Margaret Cruickshank

Doctor (1873-1918)

When Margaret Cruickshank enrolled at Otago Medical School in 1892 alongside her friend Emily Siedeberg, who had started the previous year, she brought the total number of women studying for medicine in New Zealand to two. Cruickshank graduated in 1897 and was the first woman in New Zealand to go into private practice, although there was an 1893 registration for an Eliza Frikart (an advertising doctor peddling abortefacients).1

Cruickshank was an assistant and then partner at a small medical practice in South Canterbury. In an interview she noted: "the absence of anything like hostility to women practitioners among the medical men of the colony".2 Cruickshank's experience didn't mean other women's careers were easy, however, since women wanting to buy medical practices could largely only buy off each other. When WWI began, Cruickshank took over the practice entirely. Doing most of her rounds by bicycle, she worked day and night during the influenza epidemic until November 1918, when she too succumbed to the disease.3

Image: Margaret Cruickshank. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


1. ‘A Subtle Containment: Women in New Zealand Medicine, 1893-1941 - NZJH_22_1_04.Pdf’, accessed 4 August 2017, http://www.nzjh.auckland.ac.nz/docs/1988/NZJH_22_1_04.pdf.

2. Charlotte Macdonald, Merimeri Penfold, and Bridget R. Williams, The Book of New Zealand Women (B. Williams Books, 1991), p. 161.

3. Mary R. S. Creese and Thomas M. Creese, Ladies in the Laboratory III: South African, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian Women in Science: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Scarecrow Press, 2010), p. 105.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.