Wilson, Margaret Jean (Jean)

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Wilson, Margaret Jean (Jean)

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Margaret Jean Wilson was born on December 9, 1908 in Regina Saskatchewan to parents Margaret and William. The eldest of three, Ms. Wilson was always pushed to achieve high academic standards from a young age. At the end of high school, Ms. Wilson expressed an interest in joining the nursing profession to her family. Her father forbade this path as he saw the nursing profession simply as “maids.” Instead she was enrolled in a general arts program at the University of Saskatchewan in 1927. After her graduation, Ms. Wilson was still interested in pursuing a nursing degree. Her persistent interest and success at the University of Saskatchewan convinced her father to let her go. In 1931 she enrolled in the Toronto General Hospital School for nursing. She became frustrated with menial tasks assigned to her as part of the apprenticeship style training she received. Despite these frustrations, Ms. Wilson finished the program in 1934. She first served as a private duty nurse at the Toronto General Hospital. She was then promoted to assistant head nurse in the medical ward and then head nurse in a surgical ward. In these roles she was known for her quick wit and sharp temper, a refreshing change from the obedient caretakers Ms. Wilson’s father believed nurses to be. She once told a doctor, “Where I come from I was taught that you only whistle for dogs” after he had yelled for her immediate attention while she was busy [1].

In 1937 Edith Kathleen Russell, the director of the school of nursing at the University of Toronto, requested that she consider becoming a staff member. This telegram began her forty year teaching career at the University of Toronto where she trained nurses during the war, assisted in the development of the faculty and developed her unique approach to integrated nursing education, or “bathtub teaching.” This style of education had the goal of eliminating any false barriers between the classroom and the bedside. Ms. Wilson would often hold classes within the hospital where the only place for students to sit was on the edge of the bathtub. It was in this role as educator that Ms. Wilson was able to address the frustrations she had experienced during her nursing training. In 1961 Ms. Wilson became an associate professor and in 1967 she was granted full tenure with the Faculty of nursing.

Ms Wilson retired from her teaching position at the University of Toronto in 1974. After her retirement Ms. Wilson gave generously to the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto. In 1987 the M. Jean Wilson Scholarship founded to recognize students with high academic standings. She also remained active in the university community and served as a consultant for the World Health Organization. In this role she traveled to India to assist in the organization of a Nursing Education Project.


[1] G Mansell, Diana. “Profile of a Leader: M.J. Wilson: Innovative Nurse Educator “Bath Tub Teacher” CJNL, Vol 15 (2), p, 22


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Gleaned mostly from Mansell, Diana. “Profile of a Leader: M.J. Wilson: Innovative Nurse Educator “Bath Tub Teacher” CJNL, Vol 15 (2), May/June 2002 and background material prepared by Judy Yong, Diana Mansell and Lynn Kirkwood.

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