A member of Queen's first class of female medical students and later one of Canada's foremost feminists, Smith is also significant for leaving a fascinating diary of her experiences at Queen's in the late 19th century. Born in Winona, Ontario, Smith entered Queen's in 1880 as one of three members of the university's first class of female medical students.
Throughout her stay, she kept a diary of her experiences that provides invaluable insights into medical studies in the 19th century and into the extraordinary battles women had to fight for the right to study medicine. The most dramatic part of the diary involves the banning of women from the medical college in 1882 and the subsequent creation of the Women's Medical College in Kingston.
Smith married Queen's graduate Adam Shortt, later a prominent politics professor at the university and a founder of the Canadian public service. She taught at the Women's Medical College in the 1880s and 1890s and, after moving to Ottawa with Shortt, became one of Canada's leading feminists, active in the Women's Canadian Club and in campaigns for such causes as mothers' allowances and mothers' pensions.
Her diaries for the years 1872-1884 are published under the title A Woman with a Purpose (University of Toronto Press, 1980) (see Books about Queen's).