On 3 May 1897 Margaret Cruickshank became the first woman to be registered as a doctor in New Zealand. She practised in Waimate, South Canterbury, until 1918, when she died during the influenza pandemic.
Margaret studied medicine at the University of Otago Medical School. In 1897 she became the second woman in New Zealand to complete a medical course – a year after her friend Emily Siedeberg. She became New Zealand’s first registered woman doctor after accepting a position as assistant to Dr H.C. Barclay of Waimate. Apart from a year studying in Britain in 1913, she worked in Waimate for the rest of her life, eventually becoming a partner in the practice.
Cruickshank was modest about her achievements. But she did briefly comment on them when explaining her reluctance to be interviewed to a White Ribbon journalist in 1900:
Though I may have had a little of what the world calls success, I am on a very lowly rung of the ladder yet, and from such have a very circumscribed outlook so that I feel myself hardly fitted to speak very dogmatically about questions affect women practitioners.
She did emphasise that she had not faced hostility from male medical practitioners in New Zealand.
Margaret was held in great esteem in her community. Following her death during the 1918 influenza pandemic the people of Waimate unveiled a memorial statue to her, inscribed ‘The Beloved Physician/Faithful unto Death’.