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The names appearing below are just a fraction of the Canadian
women of accomplishment. Check out The Famous Canadian Women 's
section ON THE JOB which contains mini profiles of 2000
Canadian Women of Achievement.
Grace Annie Lockhart
Born February 22, 1855. Died May 18, 1916.She was
the first woman in Canada to receive a
Mount Allison University in Sackville, New
Brunswick, became the first university in Canada to grant a degree to a
Elizabeth Barrett Died
1888, Morleyville, Alberta. Like many young women of her era Elizabeth
attended Normal school to become a teacher. In 1874 she was teaching at
Orone, Ontario when she decided to head the call for teachers and
missionaries to go to the Canadian Northwest. Her 1st post
was at Whitefish Lake Mission100 miles northeast of Fort Edmonton with
the Rev. Henry Bird Steinhauer ‘Shawahnekezhik, an Ontario Ojibwa she
was the 1st First Nation Christian Missionary in the
Northwest. Elizabeth taught there two years and made sure that Henry’s
son, Egerton Steinhauer could continue with the Whitefish Lake school.
While at Whitefish Lake Elizabeth had learned the Cree language. In 1877
she was one of six white women to sign Treaty No. 7 with the local
tribes. Her second assignment was with Reverend George McDougall and his
family at the Morley Mission. Here she studied the language and customs
of the Stoney. She was soon relocated to Fort Macleod where she opened a
public School, the 1st in southern Alberta. She also held the
1st Methodist Religeous Services at Fort Macleod. Suffering
from ill health she returned to Morleyville. Cochrane, Alberta is proud
to be home to the
Elizabeth Barrett Elementary School, named for the 1st
professional teacher in Alberta.
Source: 200 remarkable Alberta women. Online (Accessed October
August 3, 1845 St. Jérôme ,Lower Canada (Quebec). Died December 10,
1932, Rosthern, Saskatchewan. Onésime was a devoted Roman Catholic
Métis. She had hoped to serve with the Sisters of Good Shepherd in New
York, U.S.A. but it was felt that her poor health would keep her from
being devoted to completing her duties and she did not take her final
vows. She had earned her teaching certificate at the Ecole Modèle at St.
Jérôme and soon found herself heading for the Canadian North West to
apply her trade. She is conceded the 1st
certified teacher in Saskatchewan. In 1877 she travelled to
the Red River Settlement at Fort Garry (now Winnipeg). She also taught
at St Albert and St. Laurent de Grandin in Saskatchewan, where she
helped establish the Our Lady of Lourdes grotto. From 1894-1914 she
taught at Batoche No. 1 School District where she also worked as a
housekeeper for local clergy and provided board for students were far
from home. She went on to Aldina and back to St Laurent de Grandin. She
retired from teaching in 1921, living and serving the Sisters of
Presentation. It was here that she wrote her memoires. On June 7, 1954
the Canadian Historic Sites and Monuments Board had her declared a
Person of National Historic Significance. in her honor. In 1994 the
Division scolaire francophone established the Prix Onésime Dorval Award
annually presented to exemplary and dedicated teachers. October 2, 2002
a plaque showing her story was unvalued in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan by
the Government of Canada.
Source: Dorval, Onésime (1845-1932) Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.
Online (Accessed May 2014)
Alice Maud Dunning Grant.
Fitch) Born 1865 New Minas, Nova Scotia. Died March 1946 Wolfville, Nova
Scotia. On June 4, 1885 she became the second woman to graduate from
Acadia University. The following year, 1886,
she was the 1st woman to receive
a Master’s Degree from Acadia University. From 1989 to 1893 she
taught at Acadia Ladies Seminary. In 1893 she moved to Toronto serving
as Principal of Moulton College. On June 17, 1896 she married Rev.
Donald Grant and the couple moved to Quebec City where their two
children were born. In 1904 there were in Strafford, Ontario but soon
moved to Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A. for Donald’s failing health.
By 1906 Alice and her children were settled in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
Alice taught Latin and History at Acadia Ladies Seminary until she
retired in 1925. After retirement she became librarian at Morse Library
at Acadia University. She would become the first woman to serve on the
Senate of Acadia University.
Esther Clark Wright Archives, Acadia University online. Accessed April
Born Halifax, Nova Scotia May 20, 1856. Died September 5, 1935. An
educator, feminist and author in 1889 Eliza received her Ph.D. from
Cornell University in the United States.
She is probably the first Canadian woman to have received a doctor of letters.
Her appointment to the
Dalhousie University board of governors in 1919 is also a first for
Carrie Matilda Derick.
Born January 14, 1862. Died November 10, 1941. She studied for her B.A. at
McGill in 1890, took her M.A. in 1896 and would go on to study at the
Academy of Science, London England, Harvard University, USA, and Bonn
became the first woman professor at an university in Canada.
She was also an activist in women's rights.
Born March 17 1887.
was the first trained children's librarian in Canada
She devoted 40 years of her working life to the development of the
children's collection within the Toronto Public Library. It is in her
honor that the Toronto main children's library is named ;
The Lillian H. Smith Library. It houses an electronic resource center, the
Osborne Collection of Early Children's books, the Lillian H. Smith
Collection, the science fiction fantasy and horror collection (known as
the Merrit Collection), the Bagshaw collection of puppetry and children's
drama, videos, CD's and lots and lots of children's books to be read and
Personal contact with Toronto Public Library 2002)
Guelph, Ontario 1884. Died Vancouver, British Columbia , August 1, 1945.
Mary Louise attended the University of Toronto and graduated in 1906. Her
Masters degree was earned a Columbia University, New York, U.S.A. in 1908.
She worked as Director of women’s education and social welfare programs in
Toronto and then moved on to be Dean of Women at Regina College in 1914 to
1921. In 1921
she was appointed the First Dean of Women at the University of British
Columbia, a position she retained for 20 years. She was a founder of the British Columbia Teachers
Federation and a delegate to several international women’s conferences.
She was President of the Confederation of University women in 1929-30.
Suggested reading: Lee Stewart. It’s Up to You:
Women at UBC in
the early Years.
http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/whoswho (accessed June 2009 )
Levi) Born 1897, Toronto, Ontario. Died 1989, Toronto, Ontario. Evan as
a child she exhibited a powerful desire for leaning and retention of
knowledge. In 1921 she earned her BA in Mathematics and physics from the
University of Toronto. In 1924 she married Meyer Rotenberg (1894-1958) a
lawyer and businessman. The couple would have 5 children. By
had completed her doctorate and was the
woman and 1st Jew to earn a PhD in Physics at the University
of Toronto. Her thesis “on the
characteristics X-rays from light elements” was actually published in
1924. In 1929 she founded the Hillcrest Progressive School the 1st
Jewish Day School in Toronto. She served as a director through to 1944.
Mattie also enjoyed being a journalist, in 1930 she worked for the
Jewish Standard writing a women’s column. From 1939 through 1966 she
was a regular commentator on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (C.B.C.)
Trans Canada Matinee, which was dedicated to women’s issues. In
1945 her work was recognized by the Canadian Women’s Press Club (CWPC)
with the presentation of the Memorial Award. In 1947 she covered the
session at the United Nations and the Status of Women for the C.B.C. By
1941 she had returned to the University of Toronto where until 1968 she
was a demonstrator at the University physics laboratory. She was always
a strong family oriented person who made sure the younger generations
knew of their religious beliefs.
Mattie Levi Rotenberg by Nessa Rapoport. We Remember, Jewish
Women’s Archives. Online Accessed December 2012.
Born November 19, 1917 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Died Vancouver, British
Columbia September 24, 2012. She became deaf as a toddler and was
educated in schools for the deaf in Winnipeg and Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan. In 1945
she became the 1st teacher of deaf
children at the British Columbia
Provincial Jericho Hill
School for the Deaf, Vancouver. She remained at the school until her
retirement in 1978. She was awarded an honorary doctor of laws in 2000
from the University of British Columbia which considered her the 20th
centuries most outstanding teacher of the deaf in Canada. She was the 1st
woman president of the Vancouver Association of the Deaf and was on the
executive of the Western Canadian Association of the Deaf. She was one
of only a few Canadians named to the U.S. National Fraternal Society of
the Deaf Hall of Fame. She was involved with the production and
publication of the Canadian Dictionary of American Sign Language. She
refused to take it for granted that the deaf could not attend university
and she encouraged and paved the way for many deaf students.
Source: “Lives lived” by Stephen McClure. The Globe and Mail
November 15, 2012 ; Obituary, The Vancouver Sun.
Manitoba August 29, 1898. Died 1973. After obtaining her BA at the
University of Toronto, Freda did post graduate studies in English at
Columbia University in the U.S.A. and studied Librarianship in England. She began
her career in the cataloguing section of Hamilton Public Library. Head
Librarian by 1940, she would help her library become one of the top
public libraries. She worked towards the establishment of the National
Library of Canada and served as the first
president of the Canadian Library Association founded in 1946. She also served
as the first president of the Programme Planners Institute in Canada. She
was the recipient of the United Nations Award for Meritorious Service.
4, 1931 Alert Bay, British Columbia. On
1949 Gloria Cranmer, future film maker and linguist. became
native Indian woman to attend the University of
British Columbia. She graduated with a degree in
anthropology. Her first job was as a counselor for first time offenders
in prison. She married John Webster, executive director of the
Saskatchewan John Howard Society. Eventually the couple settled with
their three children on the west coast. Gloria worked with the
Vancouver YWCA and later became program director for the Vancouver
Indian Center. In 1971 she became assistant curator for the ne British
Columbia Museum of Anthropology. From 1960 through 1991 she served as
curator of the U’mist Cultural Centre in Alert Bay. She has authored
several books and co-piloted a project to create to transcribe the
sounds of the Kwak’wala language. She worked with the Museum of
Civilization on the creation of the Great Hall and served as a member of
the Board of the Museum of Civilization. Her contributions to British
Columbia native life are remarkable. She was awarded the Heritage
Society of British Columbia’s Heritage Award in 1996.
Source: Gloria Cranmer Webster, ABC Book World abcbookworld.com
(Accessed November 2012)
November 22, 1925. She must have been an independent child. As a teen
she was the only youth working as a “Sales girl” at her Woolworth’s 5
and 10 cent store. She could do math and calculate the correct change
for customers when there were no cash registers! She told her High
School Teacher she wanted to learn engineering but the teacher told her
to attend university orientation with all the other girls. She studied
engineering anyhow earning a PhD! In
1950 she was a professor of electrical engineering at Ryerson Institute
of Technology in Toronto, the 1st (and only women) of her
time to hold such a position.
She shocked her family when she married in 1952 by retaining her maiden
name. She interested women in the Business and Professional Women’s Club
of Toronto when she told them that she had worked all during her
pregnancy because her students wanted to learn from her. She marked
student exam papers in the maternity word after giving birth to her
daughter. In 1982 she was the President of the BPW of Toronto herself.
In 1983 she was honoured with the Woman of Distinction Award of the
Metropolitan Toronto YWCA.
In 1984 she became
the 1st woman to receive the Ontario Professional Engineers
Citizenship Award. And in 1988 she received the Elsie Gregory
McGill award from BPW of Canada.
In 1991 she
was the 1st woman to be awarded the University of Toronto
Engineering alumni gold medal. In 1992 she became Professor
Emeritus of the University of Toronto. In 2002 she was the only Canadian
among pioneers honoured by the International Congress of Women Engineers
Toronto Business and Processional Women’s Club. Online Accessed February
|Edythe M. Brown
she earned her BSc degree in Home Economics,
University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg. She then worked for the Extension Service of the
Manitoba Department of Agriculture and was active working with community
youth in local 4H groups. She also taught school on permit at Lac du
Bonnet, Manitoba and Kenora, Northern Ontario. She served as
Mayor of Lac du Bonnet
to 1957 and
was said to be Manitoba’s first female Mayor. After the completion of her term, and the death of her
husband Frank in 1959, she attended the University of Manitoba, served
as Don of the Women’s Residence, and received a teaching certificate.
She then returned to Lac du Bonnet as a High school teacher.
Memorable Manitobans. Profile by Gordon Goldsborough. Online (Accessed
September 15, 1921, Kerala, India. Died November 10, 2012, Guelph
Ontario. After earning her masters degree in sciences she immigrated to
Canada to study for her Doctorate at the University of Toronto in
began work at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph as
the first woman on the faculty. She married Dr. Vasanth Basrur and the couple had one daughter.
She would author over 200 scientific articles for journals and books but
is perhaps best known for her dedication to her students, many of whom
endearing called her “Mamma Basrur” She received many honours during her
life time: YMCA/YWCA Woman of Distinction; the Norden Award for
distinguished teaching; the Order of Canada and in 2012 the Queen’s
Obituary, Globe and Mail , November 17, 2012 ; Guelph loses
leading veterinary scientist ‘Mama’ Basrur. The Guelph Mercury
November 13, 2012.
Born Forest Junction, Wisconsin U.S.A. December 6, 1891. Died 1976. "Timmie"
moved to Saskatchewan from the United States in 1917. She worked as a
secretary while studying at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1940 she
earned a PhD at the University of Washington and returned to the
University of Saskatchewan to teach economics. She would go on to write
some of the basic Canadian economic works of the 1950's and 1960's.
She would become the first woman to be
elected to the executive committee of the American Economics Association
from 1957-1960. Among her many awards were the Canada
Centennial Medal 1976 and the Order of Canada.
Born Chelsey, Ontario July 6, 1908. Died September 6, 1986. She became the
first woman appointed professor in the
Department of Biochemistry at the
University of Toronto in 1964.
She was president of the Royal Canadian Institute in 1980. She has
received honours for her scientific achievements and has promoted the role
of women within her field.
Born November 11, 1907. A public health nurse she would develop into a
leading nursing educator. Dean of the Faculty of Nursing at the Université
de Montréal, she was the 1st Canadian
woman dean at a French language university.
She served as
president of the Canadian Nurses Association and was the
to be president of the International Council of Nurses.
Born March 16, 1924, Toronto, Ontario. Died August 2, 2015, Toronto,
Ontario. Known to family and friends as ‘Pat’ she earned her MA at the
University of Ottawa. When her 1st husband, naval officer
Robert Grosskurth , took her to England with his job she earned her PhD
in 1962 from Birkbeck College, University of London. In 1965, back in Toronto, she was the 1st female
professor hired in the English Department of the University of Toronto.
Pat would may 2 more times to actor and producer Mavor Moore from
1968-1978 and to Bob McMullan. She would have 3 children. Pat was
renowned in her chosen genre of writing biographies. She published life
stories of such giants as John Addington Symonds, which contained a
frank treatment of his homosexuality, in 1964. The book won the Governor
General’s Award. She wrote of Havelock Ellis in 1980, and her second
Governor General’s Award winning book was the biography of Melanie,
Klein in 1986. Lord Byron’s biography was published in 1997. In 1999
she published her own memoirs. She enjoyed travelling and she was
invited to deliver lectures in Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France and
Germany. She retired as a professor in 2000 only to lead a group of some
100 retired professors and librarians in a fight against the University
to give retired female professors better pensions, akin to those of
their male counterparts. In 2002 the group reached a settlement which
was expected to bring the protestors enhanced benefits. That same year
she was inducted into the Order of Canada. She also holds the Order of
Ontario. Throughout her life she had battled depression as well as both
breast cancer and leukemia in her lifetime, and suffered a debilitating
stroke in late 2002 which limited her to a wheelchair. Sources:
Lisa Fitterman, ’Phyllis Grosskurth: Brilliant biographer relished a
challenge’ , The Globe and Mail, August 28, 2015; Diana Hall,
‘Biographer Phyllis Grosskurth a fiery literary force ‘, The Toronto
Star, August 9, 2015.
Born St Catherines, Ontario December 11, 1922. Died July 5, 1992.
She would use her own educational background from Queens University,
Kingston, Ontario, Radcliff University in the USA, Harvard University in
Oxford University in England and London [England] School of Economics as a background for being a
politician, educator and professor of political science. She was an
elected member of parliament in the 1960's and again in the 1980's. She
was appointed president of Simon Fraser University
in 1974, the first woman
to be head of a major co-educational university in
appointed Chancellor of Carleton University in Ottawa in 1990, a position
she held until her death. In 1992 Carleton University renamed its women's
studies program to become the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women's Studies.
She was also an Officer in the Order of Canada.
Mary Eileen Travis
Née Connolly . Born March 16, 1931 New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Died
Rothsay, New Brunswick December 21, 2005. She earned her B.A. at St.
Frances Xavier University, Nova Scotia and Her Masters in Library
Science at McGill University, Montreal. She worked from 1960-69 as Head,
Children’s Department, Saint John Regional Library and from 1969-1997 as
Head, Saint John Regional Library. She was also a role model for single
mothers, raising her two children alone after her husband, Art, was
killed in a plane crash in 1970. She was an active member in the
Atlantic Provinces Library Association, serving as president from
1967-1969, the Canadian Library Association and a member of the National
Library of Canada Advisory Board. In 1972 she was honoured with the
Saint John Woman of the Year. In 1977 she was a recipient of the Queen’s
Silver Jubilee Medal. In 1982 she earned the Merit Award, from the
Atlantic Provinces Library Association.
In 1983 she became the first woman to head the Saint John Board of
In 1985 she was Vice-President of Ceremonies for the Canada Summer
Games. She was involved the founding of Hestia House Women’s Shelter and
President of Opera New Brunswick and was on the Board of Govenors of St.
Francis Xavier University. She was honoured by the YMCA with the Red
Triangle Award and in 2003 she was recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee
Award. After a stroke confined to a wheelchair she wanted to develop a
cross-country so she could go fishing! In 2004 she was presented with
the Chairman’s Award from the Saint Jon Board of Trade and was invested
as a Member of the Order of Canada.
Source: Mary Eileen Travis
Collection Ex Libris Association Online (Accessed November 2011) :
Personal Knowledge; Literary champion Eileen Travis dies by Grant Kerr
Saint John Telegraph Journal December 23, 2005
September 16, 1921 Munich, Germany. During the Nazi regime in
Germany in World War ll Ursula was separated from her parents
and sent to a forced labour camp and fortunately were reunited
in Berlin after the war. In 1948 she earned her Ph.D. in
experimental physics from the Technical University of Berlin.
Offered a post doctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto
she moved to Canada becoming a senior scientist at the Ontario
Research Station from 1952-1967. An expert in metallurgy and
materials science she was the 1st
woman to become a professor at the Faculty of Engineering,
University of Toronto. She authored some 100 research
papers and reports and is an acclaimed contributor to books on
the structure and properties of metals and alloys. She
contributor to the 1977 report : Canada as a Conserver
Society which recommended steps to reduce wasteful
consumption and environmental problems it causes. She was active
in the Voice for Women (VOW) and called for the U.S. military
withdrawal from Vietnam. She fought for the right to refuse
military service on the grounds of conscience to be extended to
the right to refuse to pay taxes for war preparations. The case
was refused by The Supreme Court of Canada. In 1982 she was
named as an officer of the Order of Canada and this was upgrade
to Companion of the Order of Canada in 1992. In 1987 she was
presented the Elsie Gregory McGill Memorial Award for her
contributions to education, science and technology. In 1989 she
was the author of the Real World of Technology
based on her 1989 Massey lectures for CBC Radio. In 1990 she was
inducted into the Order of Ontario. After her retirement she was
part of a group of women she fought for pay equality from the
University of Toronto. The university made a pay equity
settlement to some 60 retired women faculty. In 1991 she
received the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the
Person’s Case for advancing the equality of girls and women in
Canada. In 1995 the Ursula Franklin Academy, a high school in
Toronto was founded. In 2006 the Ursula Franklin Reader
included her articles and speeches on pacifism, feminism,
technology and teaching. In 2012 Ursula was inducted into the
Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame. In April 2013,
Franklin donated her extensive collection of writings devoted to
Chinese culture and history to the Confucius Institute at
Sources: Ursula Franklin, Quakers in the world, Online
(Accessed September 2009) ; Dr. Ursula M. Franklin,
United Nations Association in Canada. Online (Accessed 2009)
Marianne Florence Scott. Born
Toronto December 4 1928. She studied at McGill University where she earned
her Bachelor in Library Sciences. During her career she would receive
several LLD honours. She started her career as a law librarian and was the
cofounder of the Index to Canadian Legal Periodical Literature which began
in 1963. She was awarded the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977. She was
the 1st woman to be appointed as National Librarian of Canada, a position she held from 1984-1999. In 1995 was received the Order of
Canada. She was active on boards and executives of various professional
library associations at both the national and international levels.
Wanda Thomas Elaine Bernard.
Born August 1, 1953. She is the 1st Black Canadian to have an
academic tenure position and become a full professor at Dalhousie
University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. She would serve as director of the
Dalhousie School of Social Work for ten years. She was one of the
founding members of the Association of Black Social Workers. In 2004 she
received the Order of Canada in appreciation of her work addressing
racism and diversity in the field of social work. In 2014 she was
inducted into the Order of Nova Scotia. She has served as Chair of the
Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women. She has served as a
member of the National Coalition of Advisory Councils on the Status of
Women. On October 27, 2016 she
was named to the Senate of Canada, sitting as an independent.
She became the 1st Black Nova
Scotia woman to serve in the Canadian Senate.
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