Blending vigorous leadership and womanly virtues: Edith Kathleen Russell at the University of Toronto, 1920-52

Can Bull Med Hist. 1994;11(1):175-205. doi: 10.3138/cbmh.11.1.175.


This article attempts to explore the gendered attributes of leadership. Using archival resources and interviews with former nursing faculty this article examines the leadership qualities of one woman, Edith Kathleen Russell, in one campaign, the struggle for a nursing program at the University of Toronto. The nursing program was established at the University of Toronto in 1920, a time when women's public contribution remained firmly tied to their traditional feminine qualilties. Kathleen Russell was faced with the virtually impossible task of balancing the traditional feminine qualities while practising the aggressive qualities associated with leadership and authority. Russell was successful in promoting university nursing education when she worked within the confines of gender-determined behavior. When her strong will, determination, and persistence became evident, she was silenced. The dilemma of how to blend traditional feminine characteristics with assertive leadership remains.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Education, Nursing / history*
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Women / history

Personal name as subject

  • E K Russell