Spring 2024 - Home to Canada and the Women's Court


Margaret Norris was born in 1875 on a small farm in Perth County, Ontario. After graduating in 1899 from the medical school of Northwestern University in Chicago, she became Lord Kitchener’s medical advisor in India, where she married Dr John Patterson.

    After returning to Canada, she distinguished herself in the fight against the Spanish flu and in various social causes. She became Ontario’s first female judge and presided over the Toronto Women’s Court for 12 years.

    Her nephew, Sam Norris, was born in 1901. An only child, he inherited the family farm. Sam and Margaret were close throughout their lives. Margaret died of old age in late 1962, and Sam succumbed to cancer in early 1964. The Margaret and Sam Poems detail their imagined deathbed conversations.

       In this excerpt, the prose poem “The Mercer” interrupts the conversations. In it, the poet (Margaret’s great-nephew Richard) questions Margaret on her practice of sending young women to the notorious Mercer Reformatory.


Richard Brait is a corporate lawyer in Toronto. He has degrees in Engineering Physics and Law from Queen’s University, a graduate degree in Law from the University of Oxford, and (41 years later) an MFA in Poetry from Bennington College. His work has been published in numerous periodicals and shortlisted in several competitions. In 2021 he won the Gwendolyn MacEwen Poetry Competition for Emerging Writers. Most recently, he placed second in the 2023 Dr William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest.

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