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Dr. Mary Percy Jackson, by odu47975


									                                   Dr. Mary Percy Jackson,* O.C., Ch.B., LL.D

Dr. Mary Percy Jackson graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1927 with degrees
in surgery and medicine. In 1929, she answered an advertisement calling women doctors to
Alberta. Assigned to the Battle River area, Dr. Jackson traveled on horseback to provide
medicine in the Peace River country for over 45 years. She treated five generations,
including hundreds of Indians and Metis.

Born in England in 1905, Dr. Jackson grew up in an urban setting, leading a rather sheltered
life. She graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1927 with degrees in surgery and
medicine, and in her final year won the Queen's prize as the best all-round student. By the
time she was 24 years old, she had accumulated impressive experience and could list M.B.,
Ch.B., M.R.C.S., and L.R.C.P. after her name. She had also been house physician at
Birmingham General Hospital, casualty house physician in the children's hospital, and house
surgeon in the maternity hospital.

In 1929, in answer to an advertisement in a medical journal for women doctors to go to
Alberta, Dr. Jackson embarked on an adventure that was originally intended to be only a
one-year assignment. In an attempt to provide better medical services in outlying areas,
the Alberta Government hired Dr. Jackson and three other British doctors. Following an
orientation tour with a traveling medical clinic, she was assigned to the territory of Battle
River, a vast area covering 250 square miles that soon grew to nearly 400 square miles.
The nearest medical aid was the town of Peace River, 120 kilometers to the south. It was
connected with her territory by a dirt road, which was impassable in bad weather. She
traveled by saddle horse.

In her first year, this young lady from a sheltered English background who had been
practicing medicine under the best conditions possible, endured 90°F heat, and the dust and
mosquitoes of summer. She also endured the other extreme of -50°F cold and the complete
isolation of winter.

Whatever the weather and however primitive the conditions, the solitary pioneer doctor
ministered to her patients, often traveling many miles on horseback on virtually unmarked
trails, and fording rivers and streams as there were no bridges.

Dr. Jackson was "Doc" to homesteaders who immigrated from Norway, Hungary, Russia,
Germany and the Ukraine, in addition to the Indian population, none of whom could speak
much English. A typical week's caseload might include several fractured limbs or a broken
back; a birth; cases of dysentery, pneumonia, smallpox, scarlet fever or tuberculosis; as
well as the other illnesses expected in a family practice; and perhaps some tooth
extractions, as there were no dentists in the area.
In 1931 she married rancher and fur trader Frank Jackson, a widower with three children,
and moved to his homestead at Keg River, 500 miles northwest of Edmonton. No longer
under contract with the provincial government, she continued her dedicated service as a
general practitioner in the area, much of the time without payment. She treated five
generations of patients from all over the Peace region, and was universally loved and
respected by all who knew her.

During her long career, Dr. Jackson treated hundreds among the Indian and Metis
population and developed many long-standing friendships with them. In 1975, she was
named "Woman of the Year" by the Voice of Native Women.

In 1976, she was awarded an Honourary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of
Alberta and delivered the Convocation address. Also in that year, she and her husband were
honoured by the Province of Alberta with an Alberta Achievement Award for outstanding
service. The couple had previously been recognized for their contributions with a Master
Farm Family Award in 1953.

Dr. Jackson received the Alberta Centennial Medal and the Canadian Centennial Medal, and
a school at the junction of the MacKenzie Highway and Keg River is named for her. She
retired from active practice in 1975 and held senior membership in the Canadian Medical
Association, senior life membership in the Alberta Medical Association, and a life
membership in the College of Family Physicians.

Predeceased by her husband in 1979, Dr. Jackson* had a son and a daughter, three
stepsons, 25 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.

Dr. Jackson was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1983 and was made an
Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989.

Letters from Dr. Mary Percy Jackson – A life in Canada

As submitted to the Alumna Association - University of Birmingham

Dear Old Students,

In 1942, when the Americans opened up the overland route to the Mackenzie, for the transportation of the
uranium from which the first atom bombs were made, they were quite amazed to find white people living
at Keg River, 700 miles north of the international boundary and 150 miles beyond the railway. Their first
question was, "Why on earth do you want to live in a place like this, so far from everywhere?" Mrs
Templeman's request for a letter for the newsletter made me wonder if most of you, seeing Keg River,
wouldn't ask the same question!

It is a tiny settlement, surrounded by an immensity of uninhabited forest and swamp. Population largely
half-breed Indian. But not without excitement at times. Forest fires. Flooding rivers. Winter temperatures
as low as 70 degrees below, occasionally. I thought you might be interested to hear about an outbreak of
rabies here in the winter of 1952-3.

Warning first came from the Forest Ranger that the sleigh-dogs 200 miles north were dying of rabies
contracted from foxes and wolves. Before long the Indians here were reporting seeing dead and dying
animals in the bush, and hearing foxes barking in strange hoarse voices. Though there were always
thousands of animals in the forests around us yet we had only occasionally seen them; perhaps a deer
springing lightly across fields and fences; or a family of black bears eating wild berries; a family of little
foxes playing like kittens; or a coyote or wolf lit up by the car's headlights. But now rabid animals
descending on the settlement made life a nightmare. Everyone carried some kind of weapon even in
broad daylight, and farmers dared not go to their own barns at night without a club or flashlight.

Everyone had his own narrow escape story to tell. I could fill the Newsletter with stories of that winter! A
friend of ours backed across his fields for over a mile fighting off a rabid wolf with a pitchfork. Another
held off a wolf by shining his flashlight into its eyes as he backed to the house, and then he and his wife
had to hold the door closed all night against the onslaughts of the wolf. Foxes, snapping viciously, chased
anything that moved, attacked the wheels of cars and tractors, tried to get into houses through screen
doors and windows, attacked dogs and cats and livestock.

This was just the beginning. Soon the domestic animals were developing rabies. Our big barn cat was
shot by the hired man just as it rushed at my husband snarling like a tiger. A Russian neighbour fetched
me to see a big black steer with furious rabies. Bellowing hoarsely, with widely dilated pupils glowing
bright red in the truck's headlights and long icicles of saliva hanging from its jaws, it looked like a creature
from Hell!

Farmers at Keg River lost over a hundred cows, horse, pigs, dogs and cats before the outbreak died in
the summer, and hundreds of thousands of wild animals died of rabies, or were poisoned, by special
Rangers sent out by the Government, in an effort to control the outbreak.

The last proven case here was a coyote just two years ago, so I hope we have seen the last of it.

Yours sincerely, Mary Percy Jackson


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