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Elinor Frances Elizabeth Black was born in 1905 in Nelson, British Columbia, and moved to Winnipeg at the age of 12. As a high school student at Kelvin High School and undergraduate student, Black was involved in the United Church’s Canadian Girls In Training, where she met Gertrude Rutherford, an important player in the Student Christian Movement and an advocate of women as professionals. Her friendship with Rutherford and with other women she befriended through the movement continued throughout her life, as seen in the large collection of correspondence in the Elinor Black fonds.
In 1924, against the wishes of her family, Black entered the University of Manitoba Medical School, graduating in 1930. She set up a practice in Winnipeg in 1931 after spending a year working and travelling in Britain, and in 1933 was appointed assistant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Winnipeg General Hospital and assistant demonstrator in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Manitoba. Black was promoted to lecturer at the University of Manitoba in 1937, the same year she received a six-month appointment as house surgeon at the South London Hospital for Women. In 1938 Black was the first Canadian woman to become a member of the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Elinor Black was appointed Professor and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine in 1951. During her tenure as Head, the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology grew in size and in stature. Black continued to break ground, becoming the first woman to be president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1961. In 1970, Elinor Black received an honourary degree from the University of Winnipeg. She continued working for the University of Manitoba and at her private practice until just two days before her death in 1982.