March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of
Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout
2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the
celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The
University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University
Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.
Burwash of Victoria College had proposed the establishment of the household
science degree to the senate. To Burwash, the course "would
help a young woman to put every department of the home of which she
should become mistress on a thoroughly scientific basis.
A "true woman," many
then thought, should remain in the home. Clara Benson did not agree.
is the first course," he wrote the minister of education, "for
a true woman's life in our university."
woman," many then thought, should remain in the home. Clara Benson
did not agree. In 1902, she had signed a petition organized by the Women's
Alumnae Association of University College questioning the introduction
of such a course in the University. Nevertheless, faced with limited
job opportunities, she became a demonstrator in food chemistry the following
year. The appointment required her to switch from physical chemistry
to physiological chemistry. A.B. Macallum now became her mentor and
coached her in her new discipline. When the teaching of food chemistry
was transferred to the medical building, she became a lecturer in Macallum's
department of physiology, the first woman in the University above the
rank of demonstrator.
following the report of the royal commission, the faculty of household
science was established. Benson became an associate professor of physiological
chemistry in the new faculty. She and the principal, Annie Laird, were
the first women professors at the University. But Benson publicly acknowledged
her place in the hierarchy existing at the time by stating in an article
in the U of T Monthly in 1907 that the household science program
could be an "unqualified success ... under the direction of able
an impressive neoclassical building, still standing at the corner of
Queen's Park and Bloor Street (now the home of Ontario's Ombudsman and
Club Monaco), was erected with additional funds amounting to half a
million dollars from Lillian Massey Treble. Benson continued her research
in food science. Her research record was sufficiently strong to earn
her a listing in American Men of Science. By 1928, 30 women had received
PhDs from the University of Toronto, 28 of them in the sciences.
household science building at the corner of Bloor Street and Queen's
Park, completed in 1912. The gates were subsequently moved to
form the entryway to Philosopher's Walk at Bloor Street.