Dr. Bessie Laurance (Collver) Cathcart was born near Bloomsburg, Ontario (Norfolk County) on the 20th of May, 1892. She was the eldest of 2 children born to William Earnest Collver and the former Frances Ethel Loucks. Her parents were farmers and her younger sibling was her brother, Raymond Philip Collver who was born on the 31st of January 1894. Dr. Cathcart was educated in the Norfolk County area and she graduated from Simcoe High School.
Dr. Cathcart enrolled at The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in 1910. She was the only female who entered the medical class that year. (Two other women joined the medical class and graduated in 1915). After graduating M.B. with honours in 1915 she spent 1 year working at Toronto’s Sick Children Hospital. She first started practicing medicine close to her childhood home in Simcoe, Ontario. According to the 1928 Ontario Medical Register, Dr. Cathcart became a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 25th of November, 1915.
Dr. Bessie Cathcart married a fellow medical school classmate, Dr. William Allen Cathcart on the 1st of January, 1921 in Sarnia, Ontario. Dr. William Allen Cathcart was born in Courtright, Ontario on the 7th of January, 1892, the 3rd of 9 children born to William Cathcart and the former Florence “Flossie” Louisa Selby. His siblings were; Alberta, Selby (he also became a physician and practiced medicine in Sombra), Eliza “Bessie”, Clara, Standish, Ruth, Helen, and Charles. Mr. Cathcart was a merchant in Courtright.
Initially Dr. Cathcart and her husband set up their joint medical practice in Port Lambton. They moved their practice and their home to Wallaceburg, Ontario in 1934. Their home was located at 135 Margaret Ave. They were the parents of a daughter named Raymona (who became a nurse) and a son named William.
Dr. William Allen Cathcart died in a single vehicle automobile accident on Highway 40 in Sombra Twp on the 7th of June 1938, just after 11 am. He was returning to Wallaceburg from Port Lambton after making a number of house calls, when his vehicle entered a ditch. A newspaper article that appeared in the Chatham Daily News on the 7th of June, 1938, said that he was “killed instantly”. Dr. Cathcart was buried at the Sutherland Cemetery located near Courtright, (Lambton County) Ontario.
Dr. Bessie Cathcart enjoyed working with children and in obstetric’s. She was the Medical Officer of Health for 8 years on Walpole Island Reserve. When the Sydenham District Hospital opened in 1957, Dr. Cathcart was the Chief of Physical Medicine.
Dr. Cathcart loved to cook and work in her garden. She loved horses.
Dr. Cathcart retired in October of 1966. She died in Guelph on the 9th of December 1979. She was buried beside her husband at the Sutherland Cemetery.
*Her husband Dr. William Allen Cathcart also appears on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website. Their graduation photo’s appear across from one another in The University of Toronto yearbook “Torontonensis” of 1915.