Enid Gordon Graham (1894-1974)


Enid Gordon Graham is widely recognized as the founder of physiotherapy in Canada. With a vision of uniting the fields of massage and remedial gymnastics, Graham played a founding role in the establishment of the Canadian Association of Massage and Remedial Gymnastics in 1920, later renamed the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, and used it to establish high national standards of physiotherapy education and practice. Graham was also an educational pioneer for physiotherapy in Canada, teaching at several schools during the First World War. In 1929 she established the first university-based school of physiotherapy and ensured its long-term survival. Her work in the Second World War led to the rehabilitation of thousands of injured Canadian soldiers and ensured the recognition of the physiotherapy profession.

Born Enid Gordon Finley in 1894 to a prosperous merchant family in Montréal, Graham obtained a solid education in Europe and the United States in the new field of physical therapy. During the First World War, she worked with wounded soldiers, serving overseas with the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) and provided massage therapy with VAD in Montréal. In 1917, she introduced two new courses at McGill University – Massage and Medical Gymnastics – both at the School of Physical Education. A year later, she became the supervisor of medical massage at the Military School of Orthopaedic Surgery and Physiotherapy, located at Hart House in downtown Toronto.

In 1929, Graham, with the support of her husband Dr. Duncan Archibald Lamont Graham, established a two-year diploma in physiotherapy at the University of Toronto, the first of its kind in Canada. Particularly through the lean years of the Depression, the course would not have survived without her financial assistance and volunteer work. With a tenuous hold on professional status, this new female-dominated profession assured physicians that physiotherapists would work only under medical supervision.

During the Second World War, the need for physiotherapists was accelerated as thousands of men required skilled help in regaining some or all of their mobility following fractures, injuries, surgery and long periods of immobilization following the amputation of limbs. Building on her practical and teaching experience in the First World War, Graham chaired the Canadian Physiotherapy Association’s Military Affairs Committee during the war, facilitating the participation of 146 accredited physiotherapists in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. Thanks to her efforts, physiotherapists were afforded professional status and held officer rank equivalent to Nursing Sisters. Graham died in 1974. The Enid Graham Memorial Lecture was established in 1979 by the Canadian Physiotherapy Association in recognition to her contribution to the profession.


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