Born in Montreal in January 1882, Gwendolen Marjorie Howard was the youngest child of Dr. Robert Palmer Howard, a distinguished McGill University medical professor, and from 1882 until his death in 1889, the Dean of the university’s Faculty of Medicine.  As his daughter, Marjorie was acquainted with numerous influential Montrealers whom Dr Howard knew either as students, faculty, patients, or through other social connections. These family friends included the McGill Professor of Anatomy and Dean of Medicine, Francis J. Shepherd, as well as Dr William Osler, both of whom had been Dr Howard's students.  In the case of the Osler family, William Osler and his wife felt a particular responsibility to watch over Marjorie and her older brother and sister - Campbell Palmer Howard (1877-1936) and Beatrice Muriel Howard (1875-1913) – after the death of first their father then their mother Emily Severs Howard in 1892. Marjorie also had an older half brother, Robert Jared Bliss Howard (1859-1926), born of her father’s first marriage, who was much older and lived with his wife, Lord Strathcona's daughter, in Britain.

Orphaned, the three young Howard children continued to live in Montreal at 1088 Sherbrooke Street West, the house purchased by their mother following their father’s death. They were cared for by the Irish governess hired by their parents, Miss Rachel McGill. Their wellbeing also became the interest of several of their parents’ friends, particularly William Osler and his family.

Between 1892 and 1894 Marjorie attended school in Montreal, spending her summers visiting friends on the Lower St. Lawrence. Then in 1894 the executor of the Howard estate decided that Marjorie should attend school in Dresden, Germany.  Accompanied by Rachel McGill, her sister Muriel, and briefly by her brother Campbell, Marjorie lived at 30 Bergstrasse in Dresden, attending a school in the city until 1897. That year her siblings and Miss McGill returned to Canada while Marjorie next moved to England, where she attended Highfield, a boarding school for young ladies. Located in Golders Green, north of London, Highfield was Marjorie’s home until 1899. During her summer vacations she did not return to Canada, but visited the homes and families of British girls she had befriended at boarding school.

Soon after Marjorie's return to Montreal the Howard siblings and Miss McGill moved from 1088 Sherbrooke to 178 Mansfield Street. As is evidenced by the bulk of the photographs in the collection, Marjorie spent much of her time visiting and socializing with friends in Montreal, in the nearby towns of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Senneville, and Como, down the Saint Lawrence River at Île d'Orléans and  Métis-sur-Mer, as well as at Kingston, Ontario. She made several trips to Baltimore to visit her brother Campbell and the Osler family during this period. It was on one such trip to Baltimore that she first met her future husband, the young Canadian physician, Thomas B. Futcher.  Marjorie then visited the Oslers when they moved to Oxford in 1905, also using the visit to call upon numerous friends she had made at Highfield, as well as her older half-brother Jared and his family in England and Scotland. Two years later, after visiting her brother Campbell who was studying in Berlin, both she and Campbell travelled to Oxford to visit the Oslers.  She also made at least one trip to Bermuda during this period.

After Campbell returned to Montreal in 1907, Marjorie filled her time by keeping house for her brother.  However, within two years Marjorie became engaged to Dr Futcher while on holiday at one of Lord Strathcona’s Scotland estates. Married on November 24, 1909, the couple moved to Baltimore where Dr Futcher was an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine. There they had four children, Palmer Howard, Gwendolen Marjorie, Grace Revere, and Thomas Bruce, whose death of pneumonia at the age of seven in 1918 deeply affected both Marjorie and her husband.

Preoccupied with the social events and obligations befalling the wife of a prominent medical professor, as well as the task of raising several small children, Marjorie was also involved in the Woman's Board of Hopkins Hospital, Old St. Paul's Episcopalian Church, Baltimore and its adjoining schools, and the university's Tudor and Stuart Club. Summer vacations were spent on the Lower St. Lawrence as well as at Little Boar's Head on the New Hampshire Coast.

With her children grown, Marjorie was prematurely widowed in 1938 when her husband suffered a coronary occlusion while making his rounds at Hopkins Hospital. Selling the family home, she spent many years living alone in different Baltimore apartments, before finally living with her daughter Gwendolen. She died in Baltimore on February 21, 1969 at the age of 87.


Information about Gwendolen Marjorie Howard and her times was drawn for this project from the following sources:

  • 1901 British Census.
  • 1911 British Census.
  • 1901 Canadian Census.
  • 1911 Canadian Census.
  • 1Lovel's Montreal Directory (1842-1999).
  • Who’s Who and Why. Vancouver: International Press. 1912.
  • Who’s Who and Why. Vancouver: International Press. 1914.
  • Who’s Who in Canada. Toronto: International Press, 1922.
  • Cushing, Harvey. The Life of Sir William Osler. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925.
  • Furniss, Harry. Some Victorian Women: Good, Bad and Indifferent. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1923.
  • Futcher, Palmer Howard. "The Letters of William Osler to Marjorie Howard: Shared Courtship, Family, and Bereavement." Transactions & Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. 12, no. 4 (1990): 413-443.
  • Futcher, Palmer Howard. Notes on Gwendolen Marjorie Howard (1882-1969) and Her Howard and Servers Forebears and Relatives and the William Oslers. Baltimore: 1998. [Unpublished paper located in the Futcher Family Fonds, P136, Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University.]
  • Futcher Family Fonds, P136. Osler Library of the History of Medicine. McGill University.
  • Hanaway, Joseph and Richard Cruess. McGill Medicine: The First Half-Century, 1829-1885. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996.
  • Hanaway, Joseph, Richard Cruess and James Darragh. McGill Medicine, Volume 2, 1885-1936.
  • Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.
  • Howarth, Janet. "The Church of England and Women’s Higher Education, c.1840-1914." Politics and Culture in Victorian Britain: Essays in Memory of Colin Matthew. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Howell, William Boyman. F.J. Shepherd, Surgeon: His Life and Times. Toronto : J.M. Dent, 1934.
  • McDonald, Donna. Lord Strathcona: A Biography of Donald Alexander Smith. Toronto; Oxford: Dundurn Press, 2002.
  • Miller, Carman. "Abbott, Sir John Joseph Caldwell." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • Miller, Carman. "Clouston, Sir Edward Seaborne." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • Reford, Alexander. "Angus, Richard Bladworth." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • Reford, Alexander. "Smith, Donald Alexander, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.