Octavia Grace Ritchie: First female valedictorian

In 1888, Octavia Grace Ritchie, one of the “Donaldas,” became McGill’s first female valedictorian.    

A student in the Faculty of Arts, she graduated with first-class honours in Natural Science.    

In her speech, she thanked Sir Donald Smith for his contributions and reflected on the progress made by women during her time as one of the first female students at McGill. She also used her speech to advocate passionately for women to be admitted as students to the Faculty of Medicine. At the end of her speech, she said to the crowd, “A medical course should be provided for women in this city and in this province. Sometime it must be done; the only question is when?”   

Despite Ritchie’s gutsy plea, it would take another 30 years for women to be admitted as medical students at McGill.