The Story Of Dr. Leonora Howard King

by Margaret Negodaeff-Tomsik
236 pages,
ISBN: 0920169333

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by Jeanette Bayduza

In Honour Due: The Story of Dr. Leonora Howard King (Canadian Medical Association, 236 pages, $24.95 paper, ISBN: 0920169333), Margaret Negodaeff-Tomsik chronicles the professional career of a pioneering woman whose life was shaped by dedication, perseverance, hard work—and a touch of luck. Leonora Howard left her small farming community of Athens, Ontario, to study medicine at the University of Michigan because, in 1872, women were not yet admitted to medical school in Canada. She graduated with honours in 1876, and the following year, at the age of twenty-six, she was sent by the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Service to China, becoming the first Canadian doctor to practise in that country. Leonora gradually gained the people’s trust as she ministered to women and children and learned the language. In 1879, fate intervened: she was summoned to treat Lady Li, wife of the Viceroy of Chihli Province; in gratitude for the “miraculous healing”, she was given part of a Tientsin Temple to use as a dispensary for women and children. She quickly transformed it into a functioning clinic. She became a favourite of the Chinese aristocracy and received financial aid for many projects from the government and the missionary society. In 1881, the WFMS sponsored the Isabella Fisher Hospital for Women and Children. In 1885, the first hospital for women and children built entirely with Chinese funds opened. And in 1908, the Chinese-sponsored Government Medical School for Women, which trained both doctors and nurses, was established. In 1884, Leonora married fellow missionary Reverend Alex King and resigned her post with the WFMS, which agreed that a woman’s place was with her husband. The next day, August 22nd, France declared war on China. Through the 1894 Sino-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1900), she, unlike other missionaries, did not flee, but cared for soldiers and civilians. For her dedication, she was awarded the Imperial Order of the Double Dragon, thus becoming a Mandarin. The year was 1895. This book provides not only a chronicle of her work over forty-seven years in China—through wars, riots, revolutions, sieges, treaties, natural disasters, plagues, her own illness—but also a glimpse into the history of the country, its patriarchal society, the work of missionary societies in general, the changing political arena, and the end of Imperial China. It is well-researched, with extensive quotations, a twenty-six item selected reading list, and a detailed index, and will surely inspire readers to explore related areas of historical interest.

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