Dr. Sigridur (Sigga) Christianson
Dr. Sigga Houston in November, 1987

Dr. Sigridur (Sigga) Christianson Houston

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Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Houston, Dr. Sigridur (Sigga) Christianson

After graduation, Sigga worked for a year in a sanatorium at Fort Wayne Indiana, where her duties included treatment of tuberculosis of the larynx by reflecting sunlight down the patient’s throat with a mirror. She felt a year’s absence would test the persistence of her suitor, Clarence J. Houston. He was a gangly red-haired farm boy who was her junior by seven years, and in the medical class behind her.

After more than a year’s absence, which included a persistent daily letter writing campaign, the two met in Grand Forks in December 1926. Sigga felt that CJ, who had a draining submandibular abscess, a complication of chronic Ludwig’s angina, needed her and agreed to marriage. But they couldn’t get a marriage license without a period of waiting. They went across the river to Crookston, Minnesota, hoping the laws would be more lenient there. No luck. Then CJ had the happy inspiration to ask the court house clerk if the fact that both were Canadian citizens made any difference. It did, for the Americans saw no need to protect a couple from another country from a rash and impetuous folly.

They were married that afternoon, 3 December 1926, in the minister’s home, and the next week she joined CJ in his practice in Watford City North Dakota. They lived there for 13 months, during which their only child was born in Willingston (on 26 September 1927). They then moved to Yorkton, Saskatchewan, two years in advance of the drought and depression that was so much worse in the badlands of North Dakota than in the mixed farming area around Yorkton, which never experienced complete crop failure.

Sigga had made arduous country calls in Watford City, but in Yorkton she had only an office practice, restricted largely to paediatrics and gynaecology. Her husband did the surgery and made hospital visits.


In Yorkton, she drew patients regularly from places a hundred miles distant, including Hudson Bay, and Kelvington, Saskatchewan, and Binscarth, Manitoba. They came from greater distances than for any other Yorkton doctor. For example, Dr Sid Israels (MD Manitoba 1938, brother of Dr Max Israels MD Manitoba 1948) told of Sigga’s fame when he introduced Sigga’s son as guest speaker at paediatric grand rounds at Vancouver General Hospital in 1977. All three Israel boys had been raised at the little village of Nut Mountain where their father has a general store. Six miles away in Kelvington lived the legendary Dr PLH Warren, who could diagnose and treat virtually anything, with an exception: an infant that failed to thrive. Sid told the assembled paediatricians that when he was a youngster, ‘outside medicine’ consisted of one doctor, Sigga Houston, in faraway Yorkton. Infants sent to her were put on a formula that included gruel made from Robinson’s Groats, and all soon thrived.

In the Yorkton office, managed by Sigga, accounts were sent out only once a year, after harvest. The office was only two blocks from her home on 82 Fourth Avenue. Sigga walked home each day just before 4 pm to give her son an apple when he got home from school and was sent out to play. She then returned for another two hours at the office. When more doctors came to Yorkton after the Second World War, she reduced her office hours to 9am to 1pm. She continued to handle all the monetary affairs of the three-doctor firm until she retired at age 82, after 50 years in practice. However, everyone believed she was only 75, the age she gave on all official documents, including her hospital card. In 1926, it had been unacceptable for a woman to marry a man seven years her junior. She took her pension payments seven years late, pride coming before money. Only when she turned 90 in 1983 did she admit her true age for the first time.