Black History Month: Celebrating Agnes Clinton

February is Black History Month in Canada. Women’s College Hospital and Women’s College Hospital Foundation are recognizing and celebrating the achievements of Black Canadian trailblazers who have made meaningful contributions to our hospital and to our community.

Agnes Clinton was the first Black nursing student to graduate from the Women’s College Hospital School of Nursing. After completing high school in Toronto, Agnes Clinton tried to pursue a career as a nurse but had difficulty finding a nursing school that would accept her. As she explained, “They said I was too tall, too big, would do better somewhere else, or some other excuse.”

On a friend’s advice, she applied to WCH and was accepted into its 3-year nursing program in 1948. At WCH, Clinton developed great friendships with her classmates and acquired a passion for surgical nursing. On June 1, 1951, Clinton became the first Black nursing student to graduate from the WCH School of Nursing.  

Clinton began her nursing career as a surgical nurse at WCH and then studied public health nursing at UofT. She worked as a Public Health Nurse for the next 13 years and then completed substance abuse training at Yale University’s Summer School of Alcohol Studies – the first national training institution for alcoholism professionals in the United States.

Clinton accepted a position with the Detroit Health Department to help establish a public health program to improve healthcare for the city’s homeless population. After more than 2 decades with the program, she transferred to a city-run community mental health program for people living with HIV.

In honour of Black History Month, we celebrate the achievements of Agnes Clinton who dedicated her nursing career to helping society’s most vulnerable populations.

To learn more about the history of Women’s College Hospital, visit The Miss Margaret Robins Archives of Women’s College Hospital.