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One hundred years of healing at Women's College Hospital Add to ...

Dozens of portraits of women in starched white caps and crisp white dresses grace the walls of the Gladstone Hotel's third-floor gallery.

The images - from the pages of the Women's College Hospital nursing school yearbooks - appear innocuous at first. However, Toronto artist Nina Levitt pointed out that nearly all of the white-clad women in the photographs also have white skin.

Ms. Levitt, who teaches visual arts at York University, was commissioned to create a body of work about the history of the hospital.

In searching through the hospital archives, she found that women of visible minorities appear to have been left out of the school's yearbooks - even when some were clearly in class photographs taken in the same year. She found just four Asian women among the yearbook photographs.

Ms. Levitt said the hospital archivist told her the yearbooks were likely student-produced, which could help explain the anomaly.

"It's cliquey, so maybe some women were not part of the student body in the same way [as others]due to racism," Ms. Levitt said.

The yearbook pages, taken from 1959 to 1971, speak to the ways both medicine and the world have changed since the hospital was founded 100 years ago.

"These photographs really talk about a particular area, but to me they don't reflect nursing today. Today it's a profession that shows the diversity of our communities," Ms. Levitt said.

Ms. Levitt's work will be featured as part of an art exhibit called Being She: The Culture of Women's Health and Health Care Through the Lens of Wholeness, which includes photo installations and a juried art show drawn from local submissions.

The exhibit is being held to celebrate Women's College Hospital's 100th anniversary.

The Woman's Medical College was created in 1883 at the initiative of Dr. Emily Stowe, a Toronto woman who trained in the United States at a time when Canadian medical schools would not admit women. It built its first hospital in 1911 and changed its name to Women's College Hospital. It was merged with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre for seven years, but became independent again in 2006.

Marilyn Emery, president and CEO of Women's College Hospital, said the hospital's next step is to replace its aging infrastructure, some parts of which were built 80 years ago. The new hospital will be in the same location, on Grenville Street just east of Queen's Park. It will be constructed gradually over 5½ years.

The exhibit also features artists Meryl McMaster, Jane Martin and Sarah Anne Johnson.

The opening reception for the show is Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Gladstone Hotel, and runs until 10 p.m. Admission is free and the exhibit is open to the public until Aug. 1.

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