Fred Fisher was a Tory Anglican. Margaret didn't have a lot in common with her father until later in life. “They had a lot of battles over religion. But I think it taught her to be strong in her beliefs,” says her daughter. She adds that her grandmother, Mayme, was a professional woman, which was unusual in those days. Mayme also had a well-developed social conscience and would have fresh sandwiches waiting when the unemployed men came off the train in the Depression-era 1930s.
When Margaret was just a child, Fred Fisher told her that “God had a plan for her,” according to Sally. “She admitted that for several months thereafter, she was afraid to turn corners around buildings in Alameda for fear she would meet God and He would tell her what He had in store for her. She clearly had her own plans for her life and we all take great pride and comfort in how she was able to live those plans to the fullest,” Sally says.
Thanks to generous funding from her aunt Olive, Margaret earned a teacher’s certificate. While posted in Rockglen, Sask., the redheaded teacher fell in love with the principal, Ed Mahood. The couple married in 1942 and in 1946 their first child, Robbie, was born. Sally arrived in 1950.
At this juncture, most women of her era would have been content to keep house, put dinner on the table and raise the kids. Margaret elected to return to school: medical school at the University of Saskatchewan – with husband Ed’s full support.
In those days, students weren’t able to complete their medical studies in Saskatchewan, so Margaret packed up the children while Ed remained in Saskatchewan. Fred and Mayme accompanied Margaret to Montreal to help out. Margaret finished her studies at McGill in Montreal in 1955 and then specialized in psychiatry. Dr. Mahood went on to practise as community psychiatrist well into her seventh decade.
Margaret Mahood died at 94, in her daughter Sally’s home, on May 11. “You can’t live forever. She lived with us. We were able to bring her to our house about a year ago. It was what she wanted. I feel like she had a good death. She fell asleep and didn’t wake up. To be realistic, she had a wonderful life and a relatively easy death,” Sally says.
Dr. Mahood was predeceased by her parents, her husband Ed, and her sister Jean (Doodie) Kilcoyne. The pioneering Medicare physician leaves her daughter Sally and son Robbie; her younger sister, Mary Jamieson; eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Margaret Mahood will be fondly remembered for her joie de vivre. “She loved reading, writing letters, dinner-table debates, travel and the opera. And she had a particular fondness for visual art. She was a real Renaissance woman,” says Sally.
In addition to her role as a community psychiatrist, she was active in many socialist causes. She was a member of the left-wing Waffle faction of the NDP. It was at a Saskatchewan Waffle meeting in Moose Jaw that retired feminist academic Alison Hayford first encountered Dr. Mahood.
“She was a very present person. You knew you were with someone when you were with her. She was very sharp-minded and sharp-witted. You knew where she stood on issues. She didn’t waffle,” says Prof. Hayford.
She cites Dr. Mahood’s mentorship capacities and her lifelong commitment to feminist causes as a unique contribution to the women’s movement.
“Margaret came of age during the suffrage movement, and was middle-aged by the time the second wave of feminism came along, so she had to figure out for herself how to be a feminist. Quite frankly, in those days in the CCF [Co-operative Commonwealth Federation], the women were envelope stuffers; they weren’t expected to take public roles and run for office. There were some who did. But Saskatchewan was a really sexist place – including on the left,” Prof. Hayford says.
She credits Dr. Mahood’s progressive husband with supporting his energetic wife’s career ambitions and community action.