Women's History Month: Dr. Dormer M. Ellis

October 15, 2018

Written by: Alicen Ricard

Source: hEr VOLUTION

Next up for Women’s History month, we’re profiling Dr. Dormer M. Ellis, an electrical engineer and professor who has received numerous awards over the years. Dr. Ellis was born November 22, 1925. She was the only teenager working as a sales girl at Woolworth’s 5 and 10 cent store. She was great at math and could quickly and efficiently give change without having a cash register. She took an interest in math and engineering and when she told a high school teacher that she wanted to study engineering, the teacher tried to dissuade her. However, she didn’t listen and went on to not only study engineering in post-secondary, but to get a PhD in it as well.

By 1950 she was the first woman to be a professor in electrical engineering at the Ryerson Institute of Technology in Toronto. She was constantly surprising people by doing things that were “unexpected” of women at the time. First, by keeping her maiden name when she got married. It's common for academics to keep their maiden names now days because of publications, but at the time she was a trendsetter. She also did the unexpected later by working through her pregnancy, and even marking papers from the delivery room.

Source: Walter P. Reuther Library

She was a prominent member of BPW International (International Federation of Business and Professional Women), and in 1982 she became the president of the Business and Professional Women’s club of Toronto.

She’s gotten multiple awards over the years. In 1983 she got a Woman of Distinction Award of the Metropolitan Toronto YWCA. In 1984 she became the first woman to get the Ontario Professional Engineers Citizenship Award. In 1988 she received the Elsie Gregory McGill award. In 1991 she received the University of Toronto Engineering Alumni Gold Medal, being the first woman to do so. She became Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto in 1992. In 2002 she became the only Canadian to be honoured by the International Congress of Women Engineers and Scientists.

As mentioned, Dormer M. Ellis received the Elsie Gregory McGill award. You can read our profile of Elsie McGill from last year's Women's History Month here.