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on Canadian Postage Stamps
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Famous Canadian Women


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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.

Entertainers    

Dame Emma Albani.  (Marie-Louise-Cecile-Emma Lajeunesse). Born Chambly, Canada East (Quebec) November 1, 1847. Died April 3, 1930.  World famous soprano opera singer. She became the 1st Canadian born artist to distinguish herself in the international world of opera and concert singing.

 

Florence Lawrence   Born January 1  1890. Died 1938. This petite Canadian born actress is universally acknowledged as the world’s 1st movie star. At age 4 she was performing as “Baby Flo, the Wonder Whistler” on vaudeville. In the pioneer days of filmmaking, credits with the names of actors were not important. She became known simply as the "Biograph Girl". In 1915 she tried to help someone in a studio fire and was badly burned.  She never achieved her former active career.  At the time of her death she had appeared in 250 films! For more information check out: http://www.biographcompany.com. or read Florence Lawrence, the Biograph Girl : America's First Movie Star by Kelly R Brown (McFarland, 1999).

 

May Irwin. (Real name Georgina May Campbell) Born Whitby, Ontario June 27, 1862. Died October 22, 1938. As early as 1872 she and her sister Flora were singing on stage. Once the sister act split up, May would go on and become a well known Broadway performer. Her movie career was short but historically significant. Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, placed May in the staring role in his pioneering one minute moving picture called The Kiss. It was the 1st kiss of the movies!!! It was considered scandalous by early movie audiences and the clergy! It is considered to be the first moving picture to ever be shown in Canada! May would make only one other movie Mrs. Black is Back before she retired to live with her husband and two children. She is also credited with having named the famous Thousand Island Salad Dressing. She and her family owned a vacation home in the 1000 islands.

 
Marie Dressler  (real name Leila Marie Koeber) Born Cobourg, Ontario. November 9, 1869(?)  Died July 28, 1934) Marie made it to Broadway in 1892 and became a vaudeville star comedienne headliner shortly after 1900. She stared in films with such top actors as Charlie Chaplin . She easily made the move to ‘talkies’ .when many top silent film heroines did  not survive. More homely than beautiful she was also an over-weight woman. This was an unlikely star material. However, she was talented and she won the Academy Award in 1930. She became the 1st woman to ever appear on the cover of Time magazine. For information try: http://mdle.com/Classic Films/FeaturedStar/dresslra.htm There is some dispute as to her true birth date with various sources using 1868, 1869 and her grave using 1871.
 
Mary Pickford. Born Toronto, Ontario April 8, 1892 . Died May 29, 1979. She began her screen career in the silent films in 1909.. As an actress she stands above the rest of her era and earned herself a Best Actress Academy Award (1929) at the second annual event. She is the 1st Canadian Born woman to have won an Academy award.  Her sweet girlish looks and her long ringlets endeared her to the the fans who knew her as "America's Sweetheart". Her dedication to realism in her work sometimes meant getting down into real mud! Her talents went beyond her sincerity and heart melting appearance. She entered the film industry and became Hollywood's first female businesswoman "movie mogul" creating with her colleagues United Artists Studios. She is the 1st woman to make $1,000,000.00 a year in the U.S. Movie business!!! She remained to the end of her life, proud of her Canadian heritage.
 
Nell Shipman.  (née Helen Foster-Barham) Born Victoria, British Columbia 1892. Died January 23, 1970.  This actress was a pioneer of the silent film era. She was one of the first women in the world to direct her own films and she even established her own production company.  She was the 1st actress to do a nude scene in a film. It was a silent film entitled God's Country which was filmed on location in the Canadian north, snow and all!
 

Portia May White. Born Truro, Nova Scotia June 24, 1911. Died February 13, 1968.  As a child she sang in her Baptist church choir. Her professional career began its assent i1941 with an appearance at the Eaton Auditorium in Toronto. In 1944 she became the 1st black Canadian woman to appear in the New York Town Hall, where she was touted as the “Canadian Marion Anderson”. She toured in Canada, the U.S.A. and Latin America before returning for further studies in Toronto. She would teach at the all girls school of Branksome Hall and eventually open her own studio. She was very proud to perform before Queen Elizabeth II in a Command Performance in 1964. Even though she was an extraordinary contralto, her career was hampered by racial prejudice shown against black artists at the time. In 1999, some 30 years after her death, her family released a private CD “First You Dream”. Canada Post released a special stamp in her honour as part of it millennium celebration series.

 

Joan Miller Born Nelson, British Columbia. February1910. Died August 31, 1988. She was the 1st paid professional television performer in the world according to a history of Canadian television written by Sandy Stewart. Miller was also the 1st performer to appear on a trans-Atlantic television broadcast between London [England] and New York. She would go on to become one of Great Britain’s most outstanding stage actresses after WW II. She co-created Razzle Dazzle children’s program and co-producer of the Canadian education TV game show for students Reach for the Top.

 

Monique Leyrac(real name Monique Tremblay)  Born Montreal, Quebec February 26, 1928. She was the 1st great international star from French Canada. Using her natural gifts of music and drama she started her acting career on radio in 1943. In 1965 she won the grand prizes at the international festival of Song in Sopot, Poland and at the Festival de la Chanson at Ostende, Belgium. In the 1980's she began to write and stage one-woman shows where she sang and acted. She was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1967 and received the 1979 Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée. 

 
Laddie Dennis Born Adelaide Margaret Eleanor Marie Boissonearu, Winnipeg Manitoba May 7, 1920 Died February 22, 2009. The outgoing young Laddie took courses and performed at the Montreal Repertory Theatre. Moving to Toronto,. Adopting  her mother’s maiden name. she  took a fashion model position which  lead her to fashion commentary. She  became a writer and on-air-host for the Laura Secord Music Box show,  CFRB Radio. She worked with Monty Hall (later a famous U.S. game show host of Let’s Make a Deal) and acted in CBC radio dramas along with doing hundreds of radio commercials. In 1946 Laddie wore dark pancake make-up, brown lipstick and green nail polish to provide the best image on demonstration Television sponsored by Eaton’s Department Stores. In 1951 she married novelist/editor James Burke  The romance lasted 55 years. She became the first Canadian woman to appear on Canadian TV, September 8, 1952.  Laddie was named  Liberty Magazine’s 1955 TV Demonstrator of the Year. After a brush with cancer, Laddie found a job with regular hours from 1970-1985 as Director, Public Relations, Scarborough Public Libraries. On vacation she travelled to Morocco. Upon return she sold her travel story. Thus began a journalistic career that would cover 80 countries.  She was presented with the first Lifetime Achievement Award , 2001 by the Travel Media Association of Canada. Sources: Northern Stars.ca (accessed March 2009): Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation Http://www.cbmf-fmcr.ca/Newsletter/march 2009/laddie.php (Accessed March 2009) ; Personal knowledge.
 

Evelyn Hart.   Born Toronto, Ontario April 4, 1956. An award-winning ballerina, Evelyn Hart is an international renowned dancer and one of Canada’s most treasured artists. She was in 1980, the first Canadian to be awarded a Gold Medal at the international Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria as well as the rarely awarded Certificate of Exceptional Artistic Achievement.

 
Madeleine Louise Helene Sherwood.  née Thornton Born November 13, 1922 Montreal, Quebec. Died April 23, 2016 Lac Cornir, Quebec. Her 1st stage appearance was at the age of 4 in a passion play at church. In 1950 she studied acting under lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio, New York, U.S.A.. In 1952 she made her Broadway debut and went on to work in such hits as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Camelot. She also had numerous film roles and day time TV roles. She played the Mother Superior in the hit TV series the Flying Nun from 1967 through 1970. She had been black listed during the U.S.A. McCarthy era for active participation in the Civil Rights Movement. She was arrested during a Freedom March in Alabama. She was also a staunch supporter of the women’s right movement in the 1970’s. In the 1980’s she became the 1st woman to direct a short film for the American Film Institute. In the early 1990’s she retired to Victoria, British Columbia and later relocated to Saint-Hippotyte, Quebec. In 2010 she released a short film called Madeleine’s Method for the Actor’s Studio. She married Robert Sherwood and the couple had one daughter. Source: Mike Barnes, “Madeleine Sherwood; Star of Tennessee Williams Classics on Stage and Scene Dies at 93.” The Hollywood Reporter April 25, 2016.  
 

Céline Dion.  Born March 30, 1968.  She is an internationally known recording artist and superstar.   She began performing with her family when she was only five years old!  Her first song composed when she was 12 caught the eye of manager René Angelil who financed the recording. Her career advanced with the Gold Medal at the Yamaha World Song Festival in 1982.  There was no looking back. She became the first Canadian singer to receive a Gold Record in France. She recorded the sound track for Disney's Beauty and the Beast which would win and Academy Award and a Grammy. Other movie hit songs have been in Sleepless in Seattle and Titanic. She married her manager and has chosen to slow her career to have private time devoted to her family. . She is a member of the Order of Canada.  

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