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New Zealand's first woman doctor registered

3 May 1897

Margaret Cruickshank’s graduation photo
Margaret Cruickshank’s graduation photo (Canterbury Museum, 1989.43.2)

Margaret Cruickshank, the first female doctor registered in New Zealand, practised in Waimate, South Canterbury, until her death from influenza in 1918.

Cruickshank studied medicine at the University of Otago Medical School, where she became the second woman in New Zealand to complete a medical course in 1897, a year after Emily Siedeberg.

Following graduation, she accepted a position in Dr H.C. Barclay’s medical practice in Waimate, where she worked for the rest of her life. She visited backblocks patients by horse and gig, and cycled or walked shorter distances. Attending to accident victims and assisting during childbirth were among her most frequent duties. Under the auspices of St John, she offered first-aid classes to ‘ladies’.

She worked tirelessly during the influenza pandemic before falling victim to the disease herself on 28 November 1918. In 1923, Waimate residents erected a statue in honour of Cruickshank on which was inscribed, ‘The Beloved Physician / Faithful unto Death’. It is one of New Zealand’s few memorials to a woman other than Queen Victoria.

How to cite this page

New Zealand's first woman doctor registered, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated