In 1897, Margaret Cruickshank became the second woman graduate of the Otago Medical School in New Zealand. (The first was Emily Siedeberg, who had graduated the year previously.) Dr Cruickshank registered as a General Practitioner, and was the first woman GP in New Zealand, practising from 1897-1918 in the small South Canterbury town of Waimate.
When the influenza pandemic broke out in November 1918 Dr Cruickshank worked day and night treating patients who had fallen ill. Late in the month, she herself caught the disease and died of pneumonia, a complication of influenza, on 28 November.
By all accounts, Dr Cruickshank was very popular and well-respected doctor. During the First World War she took on the extra burden of her partner’s share of the practice while he (Dr Barclay) was on active service overseas. She organised the Waimate Red Cross Fund, and worked as Supervisor of the Waimate Hospital where she also helped to train and examine nurses. In 1948, the maternity ward at Waimate Hospital was named the Cruickshank ward in her honour.
A statue commemorating Dr Cruickshank’s life and work was unveiled in Waimate on 25 July 1923. The statue was carved from Italian marble by the Christchurch sculptors William Trethewey and Daniel Berry. The inscription reads:
Margaret Cruickshank M.D. The beloved physician, faithful unto death.”
This year, 2018, a new memorial has been created to mark the centenary of Dr Cruickshank’s death. Her portrait is one of five depicting historical Waimate identities that has been painted by artist Bill Scott on giant concrete grain silos in the town.
Sue Wootton is co-editor of Corpus.