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Allisonian Firsts: Emma Sophia Baker

A virtual exhibition celebrating the bold Allisonians who became the "firsts" in their field.

Emma Sophia Baker

First female PhD from a Canadian university, 1903

Recipient of the first doctorate in psychology conferred by the University of Toronto, 1903

Oval portrait of Emma Baker.

Emma Sophia Baker, [ca. 1904]

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture Collection, 2007.07/1068. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Emma Sophia Baker was born on 27 February 1858 in Milton, Ontario. She was the daughter of Charles Alfred Baker (1824-1891) and Mary Ann (Thomas) Baker (1830-1871). She graduated from Albert College in Belleville, Ontario, and thereafter served as a principal for a number of years. She held positions as preceptress for a total of thirteen years in women’s colleges in Ontario (Presbyterian Ladies' College - Toronto) and Pennsylvania (Dickenson's Seminary - Williamsport) prior to her work at Mount Allison Ladies’ College. She also spent two years abroad in Europe, studying French language and literature at the Sorbonne in Paris and Newnham College in Cambridge, England.

She graduated from University of Toronto in 1899 with a B.A. and then spent two years in post-graduate study in psychology at Toronto. In 1901 she was appointed vice-principal of the Mount Allison Ladies’ College, the successor to Mary Mellish Archibald. The subjects she taught at the Ladies’ College included: French (1901-1913), biblical history (1901-1904), Bible (1908-1913) and psychology (1907 -1908). She also taught psychology at Sackville High School for a year (1907-1908).

In 1903, Baker received the first Doctorate in Psychology conferred by the University of Toronto and in so doing became the first woman to receive a PhD from a Canadian university. She was only the second member of faculty at the Ladies' College to have a PhD. It would be nearly a decade before the same could be said about the faculty at the University. She stayed at the Ladies’ College as vice-principal until spring 1913, when she accepted the position of Chair in Psychology, Ethics and Economics at the Maryland College for Women in Lutherville, Maryland. She was succeeded as vice-principal at the Ladies’ College by Annie Sprague.

She died in St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, on 26 October 1943. She is buried in Woodland Cemetery in London, Ontario.