Dr. Henrietta Banting

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, I thought we’d take a moment to look at a woman who had a large impact not only on Sir Frederick Banting’s life but also on the the field of medicine.

Henrietta Ball was born in Rock Island, Quebec in 1912. In 1932, she received an undergraduate degree in biology from Mount Allison University. She spend a few years working in hospitals to gain experience before moving to Toronto to continue her education at Banting Institute, where she worked as a research assistant to Frederick Banting. In 1937, she earned her Master’s in Medical Research from the University of Toronto. Shortly after she married Frederick Banting. Though their marriage was short due to Frederick’s death in 1941, the pair shared many happy memories together. After his death, she worked to keep her late husband’s memory alive by taking part commemoration ceremonies, including the 50th anniversary of the idea of insulin celebration at Banting House NHSC in 1971.

Henrietta and Frederick Banting sitting on a couch together.

Shortly after the death of Frederick Banting Henrietta enrolled in the medical school at the University of Toronto to earn her doctorate. As it was during the Second World War, she was also enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.

Henrietta Banting in her Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps uniform.

After the war she spent a few years working and studying abroad before returning to Toronto. In 1957, she joined the staff of Women’s College Hospital, a teaching hospital and world leader in women’s health. She was described as “selfless”,”compassionate”, and “gallant” by her patients. Henrietta was appointed director of the Cancer Detection Clinic in 1958 and held the position until her retirement in 1971. Under her leadership this clinic became one of the top centres of its kind. Henrietta believed that this represented the need for continued support for medical care of women by women. She was also the Vice President of the Medical Women’s International Association where she acted as an advocate for the rights of women in medicine worldwide. After her retirement she volunteered for the Canadian Cancer Society to fight against breast cancer. Dr. Henrietta Banting died of cancer in 1976. The Henrietta Banting Memorial Fund and the Henrietta Banting Breast Care Centre were established at Women’s College Hospital in her memory.

Henrietta Banting conducting research.


This post was written by Rachel Delle Palme, Graduate Research Assistant at
Banting House NHSC. Rachel is currently completing her M.A. in Public History at
Western University.

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