©

Copyright © 2004-2014 Dawn E. Monroe. All rights reserved.

 
Activities and Games
Do You Share a Birthday
With a Famous Canadian Woman?
Famous Canadian Women's
Historical Timeline
Famous Canadian Women
on Canadian Postage Stamps
On the Job
Over 1,000 Names
Quotes from
Famous Canadian Women

                               Click the button at the end of this line to go back to the Famous Firsts main page

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.

Academics, Librarians and Teachers      
Grace Annie Lockhart Born February 22, 1855. Died May 18, 1916.She was  the first woman in Canada to receive a university degree  Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, became the first university in Canada to grant a degree to a woman.
1870's
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 2014)
Onésime Dorval  Born 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)
1880's
Alice Maud Dunning Grant. (née 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. Source: Biography, Esther Clark Wright Archives, Acadia University online. Accessed April 2013.
Eliza Ritchie. 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 Canadian women.
1900's
1910's

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 University, Germany. In 1912 Carrie became the first woman professor at an university in Canada. She was also an activist in women's rights.

 
Lillian Helena Smith. Born March 17 1887. She was the first trained children's librarian in Canada in 1912. 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 loved. Source: Personal contact with Toronto Public Library 2002)
 
1920's
 
Mary Louise Bollert Born 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. Source: http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/whoswho (accessed June 2009 )
 
Mattie Rotenberg (née 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 1926 she had completed her doctorate and was the 1st 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. Sources: Mattie Levi Rotenberg by Nessa Rapoport. We Remember, Jewish Women’s Archives. Online Accessed December 2012.
 
1940's
 
Maureen "Mimi" Mitchell Donald 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.
 
Freda Farrell Waldon. Born Winnipeg, 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 Canadian urban 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.
 
Gloria Cranmer Webster Born July 4, 1931 Alert Bay, British Columbia.  On September 10 1949 Gloria Cranmer, future film maker and linguist.  became  1st 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)
 
1950's
 
Dormer M. Ellis Born 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 and Scientists. Source The Toronto Business and Processional Women’s Club. Online Accessed February 2013.
 
Edythe M. Brown In 1936 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 from 1953 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. Sources: Memorable Manitobans. Profile by Gordon Goldsborough. Online (Accessed December 2011)
 
Purvathi "Pari" Basrur Born 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 1955. She 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 Jubilee Medal. Source: Obituary, Globe and Mail , November 17, 2012 ; Guelph loses leading veterinary scientist ‘Mama’ Basrur. The Guelph Mercury November 13, 2012.
 

Mabel Frances Timlin. . 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.

 
1960's
 
Jeanne Fisher Manery.  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.
 

Alice M. Gerard.  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 first Canadian woman dean at a French language university. She served as president of the Canadian Nurses Association and was the first Canadian to be president of the International Council of Nurses.

 
1970's
 
Pauline Jewett.  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 the USA, 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 Canada. She was 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.
 
1980's
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 Trade. 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 Biography 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
Ursula Martius Franklin.  Born Munich, Germany  September 16, 1921. She is a specialist and pioneer in the structure of metals and alloys. In 1984 she became the first woman to be named a University Professor at the University of Toronto.  A tireless advocate for Science for Peace she was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1992.
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 first 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.

back to the top