Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
March 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia




[This article was published in 1948. For the full citation, see the end of the document.]

Co-Education. The demand for the admission of women on the same terms as men, not only to degrees, but to instruction in universities, engaged the attention of those interested in higher education about the same time in Canada as in Great Britain and the United States. There were, and there have continued to be, two schools of opinion-those who believed that instruction should be given to women in separate colleges, and those who held that men and women should be educated together. By reason of the conditions of the country, apart from the inherent principle, the latter opinion has prevailed in English-speaking Canada. Sufficient wealth has not been forthcoming to endow separate colleges for women, as in the eastern United States, or as in Oxford and Cambridge ; moreover, public opinion in English-speaking Canada has supported co-education in institutions supported by the state.


The efforts to secure university coeducation arose first and most prominently in connection with University College, Toronto. In 1877 two women matriculated, though without the right to attend lectures in the college. In succeeding years women also won honours and scholarships, but these latter they were debarred from holding because they were excluded from attendance on lectures. This led, in 1879, to an appeal to the senate of the university for redress, and the senate enacted that such scholarships should be paid without attendance on lectures being required. In 1883 eleven women petitioned for the right to attend lectures, but the petition was not entertained, on the ground that the province should provide a thoroughly-equipped college for women, its students to have access to the library and laboratories of the university and to receive tuition from some' of the professors. The legislature, however, intervened and enjoined on the university the reception of women students on the same terms as men. Accordingly, in October, 1884, ten women were registered in the classes of the four years, and in 1885 two women, who had never attended lectures, graduated as bachelors of arts. The federated universities (Victoria and Trinity) have the same policy as University College, and each is well equipped with special residences and a union, under a dean of women. Women are on the general teaching-staff of the colleges and of the university also. St. Michael's College, now fully federated, has affiliated with it two institutions for women in which instruction is given for degrees in the university. For many years all the professional and post-graduate faculties of the University of Toronto have been open to women on the same terms as men.


The course of women's education ran more smoothly in McGill University, though similar ideals were held in regard to the segregation of women. In 1884 women were admitted to the faculty of arts, but it was understood that their instruction was to be separate from that of men, through the duplication of lectures. To provide for this and for lecture-rooms, Sir Donald Smith (afterwards Lord Strathcona) gave the university an endowment of $120,000 "on condition that the standard of education for women should be the same as that for men for the ordinary degrees in Arts, that the degrees to be granted to women should be those of B.A., M.A., LL.D., which should be so granted to them by McGill University on the same conditions as to men". In 1900 the Royal Victoria College, provided by the same benefactor, was opened as a residence college for women, a college of McGill University, from which all its students, resident or non-resident, take classes and finally get their degrees. Though there were, chiefly in the earlier years, some classes in the college in which instruction was given to women only, it was never thought possible or desirable to provide for the instruction of women students by means of a separate faculty in the university, so that the teaching of women as a whole is now carried on through the medium of co-educational classes. Within comparatively recent years women have been admitted to the faculties of medicine and law, but as yet there have been no women students in engineering or architecture.


In the other universities and colleges of English-speaking Canada, co-education is the regular practice. All have separate residence, some of them very finely equipped.


In French-speaking Canada, boys are instructed for eight years in separate classical colleges, affiliated with Laval University and the University of Montreal, before they come, for professional studies only, to the university. For girls and young women there are four colleges of similar standing, in one of which the same examinations as those taken by men are held. Women receive professional training for law, medicine, dentistry and pharmacy in common with men in Montreal only, as Laval University has not provided instruction for women in these professional studies. The number of women students is small, medicine and dentistry being the only professions in which women are allowed to practise.


Of degrees of all grades conferred by the universities and colleges of Canada in 1930-31, there were 1,326 which went to women and 4,172 to men.

Source : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 97-98.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College