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Dr. Marion Powell fonds

Media Type: 
Multiple media
Call Number / Archival Reference Number: 
STEM Field: 
Obstetrics and Gynaecology

The fonds consists of the professional and personal papers of Dr. Marion Powell dating from 1968-1997. The fonds is arranged into 18 series and contains correspondence, reports, journals, newsletters, newspaper and media clippings, books, statistical data, conference programs, video cassettes, audio cassettes, samples of contraceptives, pharmaceutical company literature, slides and literature searches.

Biography/Administrative History: 

Fondly remembered as the 'mother of birth control in Canada,' Dr. Marion Powell was a physician, longstanding activist, and leader in the fields of sex education and birth control. Born in 1923, Marion Powell graduated with a medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto in 1946. She completed a rotating internship at the Toronto General Hospital in 1947 and a senior internship in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Women's College Hospital in 1948. She then moved to Timmins, Ontario, where she started a general practice and established a home for unwed mothers. In 1952, she became a medical missionary with the Presbyterian Church of Canada and travelled to Osaka, Japan with her husband, Reverend Donald Powell. After successfully passing the Japanese medical licensing exams, Dr. Powell was assigned to the Yodogawa Christian Hospital. Dr. Powell returned to Canada in 1960 and opened a general practice in Scarborough, Ontario. She also returned to the University of Toronto, and received a diploma in Public Health from the School of Hygiene. In 1962, she became Canada's first female Medical Officer of Health, accepting an appointment to the Peel County Health Unit. In 1964, she held the position of Associate Medical Officer of Health for Scarborough, and was promoted to the position of Medical Officer of Health in 1971. While there, she established Canada's first municipally funded birth control clinic, which opened in 1966. This clinic had no hospital affiliation and served women regardless of age or marital status. Dr. Powell was also responsible for the development of the health and sex education curriculum for the Scarborough Board of Education, which became a model for other school boards across the country. In 1972, Dr. Powell was appointed to the staff of Women's College Hospital in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. In 1974, she helped establish the Bay Centre for Birth Control at Women's College Hospital, where she accepted a position as staff physician. She was promoted to Director of the Bay Centre for Birth Control in 1981, a position she held until her retirement in 1990. From 1972-1988, she also served as an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, where she taught medical students about sexuality and women's health. Dr. Powell was the Head of the Population Unit at the School of Hygiene until 1977, and a cross-appointment enabled her to also teach students in the fields of nursing, pharmacy, social work, and physical and health education. Dr. Powell influenced a generation of medical professionals to take a more responsive and caring approach towards the health-care needs of women. In 1978, she became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Canada. Throughout her career, she received multiple awards and grants for research in the fields of family planning, contraceptive methods, sex education and nutrition counselling. Dr. Powell also published and delivered numerous academic papers, wrote educational material for textbooks, produced teaching material and wrote a regular column from 1973-1981 entitled 'Youth Clinic' in the Toronto Star that was syndicated to 34 newspapers. Dr. Powell served on the Ontario Medical Association's Advisory Council on Health Education (1971-1974) and on the Curriculum Committee of the Ontario Ministry of Education (1971-1973). She was a consultant for the Family Planning Services Division for the City of Toronto (1975-1976) and was appointed to the Committee on the Operation of the Abortion Law (1975-1976). Dr. Powell was also a very active member of Planned Parenthood of Toronto, the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, and the Peel District Health Council. Over her career, Dr. Powell was presented with numerous awards. These include the YMCA Woman of Distinction Award (1984), the Persons Award (1988), the Order of Canada (1990), and the Gardiner Award (1994) in recognition of her contributions to the development and well-being of the Metro Toronto Community. Dr. Marion Powell died in 1997, at the age of 74.

12.25 m of textual records, 22 videocassettes, 3 audio cassettes
Hosting Institution: 
Women's College Hospital
Collection Contact:
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