Ruth Simkin—doctor, activist, author, entrepreneur, world traveller —was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in March, 1944. She lived a most amazing life that can only be understood by reading her books--The Jagged Years of Ruthie J, Like An Orange on a Seder Plate: Our Feminist Haggadah (and Our Lesbian Haggadah), Dear Sophie, Come Along with Me, What Makes you Happy, and The Y Syndrome. Ruthie passed away on Friday, May 13th, 2022 and will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved her.
In her early years, Ruth attended the Peretz School for Jewish Education, and later went on to public school and then the University of Manitoba.
When Ruth was around eighteen years old, she experienced a dark period in her life due to medical conditions that were misdiagnosed and caused her to be placed in the now famous “sanitorium," Chestnut Lodge, in Rockville, Maryland—made famous by such movies as I Never Promised You A Rose Garden and Lilith. Ruth talked about her time there in her book, The Jagged Years of Ruthie J.
An unknown reviewer wrote: "Few people, if any, have spent years locked up in a mental institution and emerged against overwhelming odds as noteworthy physicians. Ruthie J becomes Dr. Ruth Simkin, an internationally renowned Physician. She is a skilled pubic Speaker who gives voice to both the ex-mental patient and the physician. She offers hope to those who find themselves in unthinkable circumstances and affirms the determination of the human Spirit.”
Ruth studied at Trinity College in Washington DC where she completed a degree in physics and chemistry. While at Trinity she participated in a research program through NIH (National Institutes of Health) in chemotherapy. During her time at Trinity, Ruth discovered a physical constant in chemistry, and was awarded the Hillebrand Junior Award from the Chemistry Society of Washington.
After graduation, Ruth took a year off and experienced many adventures as she backpacked around the world. During this time, Ruth also spent four months at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel, where she later studied in the seventies. She moved to Calgary to attend the new University of Calgary Medical School and was in the first graduating class in 1973. Upon graduation, she immediately set up a very successful family practice in Calgary, while also serving as a professor and preceptor for the Medical School.
Ruth spent most of her life in the service of others, whether as a doctor, a community activist, a feminist, and a researcher of all things curious. She was tireless in her constant desire to learn more, see more, and do more. She loved all aspects of medicine, from acupuncture to women’s medicine, to medical concerns of the lesbian community, to hospice. She even travelled to China to study acupuncture at the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, approved by the WHO, and became the first approved acupuncturist in Alberta, Canada. While working on staff at Alexandria Community Health Centre in Calgary, an interest in PMS took her to London where she studied under Katerina Dalton, the doctor who named PMS and recognized it as a real medical condition. Afterward, Ruth opened the first PMS Clinic in Western Canada.
Ruth loved to travel. She travelled around the world twice—once after graduation from University and again in 2005—this time with her beloved sister, Judi. Ruth and Judi had many memorable adventures, which Ruth later wrote about in her book, Come Along With Me.
Apart from medicine and travel, Ruth also loved the theatre and became involved in many theatre projects and the performing arts. She produced many concerts over the years, and in particular for lesbian artists and audiences, bringing such people at Lucie Blue Tremblay and Alex Dobkin to the stage.
Ruth was never idle or bored. She explored all sorts of entrepreneurial avenues in her life, from being a small vegetable farmer (on SaltSpring Island, BC) to holographic art, to concert producer. She studied languages. She increased her medical knowledge by becoming a hospice doctor in Victoria, BC. She loved music and studied Taiko Drumming, participating in a number of performances with Uminari Taiko. Her most memorable performance was for Canada Day in 2010.
Ruth was a member of the Congregation Emanu-El in Victoria, BC, Canada.
Ruth will be missed by her friends at Bedazzled Ink Publishing, especially by Liz Gibson, who befriended her during her days on SaltSpring Island in the early 1990s, and has fond memories of evenings spent with Ruth and friends, especially after concerts hanging out with the artists.