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Jackson, Mary Percy
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Dr. Mary Percy Jackson served the people of the Peace River country as a physician for over 45 years. Born in England in 1905, Dr. Jackson grew up in an urban setting, leading a rather sheltered life. She graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1927 with degrees in surgery and medicine, and in her final year won the Queen's prize as the best all-round student. By the time she was 24 years old, she had accumulated impressive experience and could list M.B., Ch.B., M.R.C.S., and L.R.C.P. after her name. She had also been house physician at Birmingham General Hospital, casualty house physician in the children's hospital and house surgeon in the maternity hospital.
In 1929, in answer to an advertisement in a medical journal for women doctors to go to Alberta, Dr. Jackson embarked upon an opportunity that was originally intended to be only a one-year assignment. In an attempt to provide better medical services in outlying areas, the Alberta Government hired Dr. Jackson and three other British doctors. Following an orientation tour with a travelling medical clinic, she was assigned to the territory of Battle River, a vast area covering 250 square miles that soon grew to nearly 400 square miles. The nearest medical aid was the town of Peace River, 120 kilometers to the south. Dr. Jackson became the only physician responsible for the well being of Indigenous peoples and settlers in a wide radius of remote territory. Despite the isolation, Jackson was vigilant about nutrition, vaccination, and tuberculosis control and she kept up with the latest advances in health promotion.
In 1931 she married rancher and fur trader Frank Jackson, a widower with 3 children, and moved to his homestead at Keg River, 500 miles northwest of Edmonton. Dr. Jackson continued her dedicated service as a general practitioner in the area. Married and in relative prosperity, no longer under contract with the provincial government, she did not seek payment for her medical work, although she appreciated gifts in kind.
During her long career, Dr. Jackson treated hundreds among the First Nations and Metis population and developed many long-standing friendships with them. In 1975, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the Voice of Native Women. In 1976, she was awarded an Honourary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Alberta and delivered the Convocation address. Also in that year, she and her husband were honoured by the Province of Alberta with an Alberta Achievement Award for outstanding service. The couple had previously been recognized for their contributions with a Master Farm Family Award in 1953.
Dr. Jackson received the Alberta Centennial Medal and the Canadian Centennial Medal. She was also hounoured with the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1983. Recognized on a national level as well, Mary Percy Jackson was nominated an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989 and invested with that honour on April 18, 1990. She retired from active practice in 1975 and held senior membership in the Canadian Medical Association, senior life membership in the Alberta Medical Association, and a life membership in the College of Family Physicians.
Predeceased by her husband in 1979, Dr. Jackson resided in Keg River until her death on April 6, 2000. She has a son and a daughter, three stepsons, 25 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.