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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 1900 Canadian Women of Achievement.

Politicians and Public Servants    
 

Lady Helena E. Squires (née Strong) Born Little Bay Islands, Newfoundland 1879. The strong twin sisters were educated at a boarding school in St John’s  and later at Mount Allison University. You would think that being the wife of the Premier of the Province and mother of seven children would have been enough work for anyone. However Lady Squires was a social activist who worked to found a teachers college and a maternity hospital. She was the first woman elected to the Newfoundland House of Assembly. When Newfoundland entered Confederation in 1949 she was elected the first president of the provincial Liberal Association.

Helen Gregory MacGill  Born Hamilton, Ontario January 7, 1864. Died February 27, 1947. She was the first woman to graduate from Trinity College of the University of Toronto. When she settled with her young family in British Columbia she was the first woman of the region to be appointed a judge of the juvenile Court, a post she held for 23 years.
1910's
Anna Minerva Henderson Born 1887, Saint John, New Brunswick. Died July 21, Saint John, New Brunswick. It was not common for all girls to graduate from high school let along a Black girl. After High School, Anna attended Norman School in Halifax to earn her teaching certificate. She was only allowed to teach in the Black community. She returned to school to study at business College. She then tried the Civil Service examinations and placed third over all those writing the exam. In 1912 she became the 1st Black Canadian appointed the permanent federal civil Service. She began with working at the Dominion Lands Branch of the Department of the Interior. In 1938 she was the principal clerk in the Immigration Branch of the Department of Mines and Resources. She enjoyed writing poetry in her time off work. She had her verse published in various Canadian magazines and she also  had an occasional column in the Ottawa Journal called Citadel which was dedicated to poetry. She retired from the federal Civil Service in 1945 and returned from Ottawa to Saint John, New Brunswick where she worked as a stenographer in a law firm and for awhile worked in Washington D.C. In 1967 she published a chapbook of her Citadel Columns from the newspaper and this may indeed be the 1st collection of poems published by an Afro-Canadian woman. She continued her formal learning after her retirement by taking creative writing courses at the University of New Brunswick Source: Herstory: The Canadian Women's calendar. 2008  (Saskatoon Women's Calendar Collective / Coteau Books, 2007)
Jean Ethel MacLachlan Born 1875 Nova Scotia. Died 1963 Vancouver, British Columbia. She worked as a school teacher in Nova Scotia for 15 years before moving to Saskatchewan. In her new home in 1909 she was a social worker , an inspector of foster homes and by 1916 was the superintendent of neglected children. In 1917 she was appointed Juvenile Court Judge for Saskatchewan, the first person, male or female to hold this position. She was also appointed a Justice of the Peace, the first woman in Canada to hold such a position. She would hear over 5,000 cases with only 13 appeals and in that only 6 reversals.  During her tenure she traveled, much of the time by horse and buggy, 25,000 miles annually . She enjoyed playing golf, tennis and badminton. She would donate a cup for the Girls’ uner-18 tournament at the Lakeshore Tennis Club in Regina. She worked with her United Church, the women’s Canadian Club, the Regina Orchestral Society, the Saskatchewan Social Service Council and the Canadian Association of Child Protection Agencies. Regina commemorated her achievements by naming MacLachlan Crescent in her honour. Source: City of Regina. Heritage & History Online. (Accessed January 2012.

Emily Murphy. Born Cookstown, Ontario 1868. Died March 14,1933. Emily was journalist who would write about the adventures of the famous "Janey Canuck" character. She became the first woman in the British Empire to become a Magistrate when she was appointed a police magistrate for Edmonton, Alberta in 1916. She would go on to also be provincial magistrate for Alberta. A supporter of some 20 volunteer organizations she was the first national president of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada.  She is also a member of the Famous Five who would be part of the Persons Case in 1929 which would have women declared "persons" in the eye of the law. If you watch the "Historical Moments" which appear on Canadian TV be sure to watch for her story.

Sarah Ramsland Scythes née McEwen. Born July 19,1882 Minnesota, U.S.A. Died Regina, Saskatchewan April 4, 1964.  In 1906 she married Magnus Ramsland. The couple settled in Saskatchewan and raised a family of three children. When her husband died of the Spanish flu in 1918, family convinced her to run for his vacant seat  in a Saskatchewan by-election. She became the first woman elected to the Saskatchewan legislature. The law had been changed only in 1917 which allowed women to run. She would serve a Pelly area member of the legislative Assembly until 1925. She was a staunch defender of her constituents’ need and was the first MLA to suggest marking sites of historical interest in the province. Upon leaving politics Sarah she became a librarian establishing Saskatchewan’s traveling library program. After marrying William George Franklin Scythes in 1942 she turned her energies into community activities and volunteer work. Source: City of Regina. Heritage & History Online. (Accessed January 2012.; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan online (Accessed January 2012)
Mary Ellen Smith (née Spear) Born  October 11, 1863, Tavistock, England. Died May 3, 1933, Vancouver, British Columbia . She taught for awhile and then married Ralph Smith a widower and a coal miner by profession. The couple settled in British Columbia and Ralph was elected to serve in  the Provincial and federal governments.  Mary Ellen supported her husband political career and even gave speeches on his behalf. She was a member of the suffrage League of Canada, president of the Women’s Canadian Club  of the Women’s Forum. She served as a regent of the Imperial Order of the Daughter’s of the Empire, and was an executive member of the Canadian Red Cross. When her husband died in 1917 she entered politics herself and successfully won her husband’s former seat in a by election in January 1918. She was re-elected in 1920 and again in 1924. She was the 1st female Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia , and  in March 1921 she became the first woman cabinet minister in the British Empire, and the first woman speaker of the House in the British Empire, serving as minister without portfolio, March to November 1921. An advocate of British Columbia's first mothers' pensions and Female Minimum Wage acts. In 1929, she was appointed Canada's delegate to the International Labour Organization conference in Geneva, Switzerland. She served as president of the BC Liberal Party in the early 1930s Sources: Vancouver Hall of Fame Online (Accessed November 2012. : The Canadian Encyclopedia online (Accessed November 2012)

Nellie Letitia McClung. (née Mooney) Born Chatsworth, Ontario October 20, 1873.  Died September 1, 1951. This author, first published in 1908, and it became a national best seller. A busy mother of 4 children she became interested in women’s rights.  She was and effective speaker and was elected Member of Parliament from Alberta. She worked on the Person’s Case, was a Canadian delegate to the League of Nations (now the United Nations), and was the first woman board member of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Louise Crummy McKinney.  Born Frankville, Ontario September 22,1868. Died July 10, 1931.  She was one of the first women to be elected to the Alberta Legislative Assembly and later the federal Parliament. She was an organizer of local, provincial, national and international vice-president of the Women’s Christian temperance Union.  She fought for laws to aid immigrants, widows, and separated women.  She was the second woman to sign the famous “Persons” act which lead to women in Canada being able to be considered “persons” She is one of the group now called “The Famous Five”

1920's
Constance Easton Hamilton Born 1862 Yorkshire, England. Died, Toronto, Ontario 1945.   Constance migrated to Canada in 1888 with her family. The family settled in Vancouver where Constance met and married  A Canadian Pacific Railroad manager, Lauchlan Alexander Hamilton (1852-1941). The couple were transferred first to Winnipeg and then in 1899 to Toronto. She was a staunch supporter of women’s suffrage and was President of the Equal Rights League of Toronto. She frequently represented Canadian Suffragists in other countries. She was an active volunteer with numerous associations including the Big Sisters  and the YWCA. She chaired the Toronto Branch of the National Refugee Committee and worked with the National Council of Women as chair of the Agricultural Committee. Once women had the right to vote and could run for municipal office she became the first woman elected to the Toronto City Council. She was sworn in on January 12, 1920 with no cameras to record the event and no mention in the mayor’s inaugural address. She was re-elected in 1921. She was the first woman to be elected to any level of Government in Canada.   After two years in  public office she retired to continue her campaign work for the rights of women, underprivileged people, including immigrants and refugees to the city.  She also served on the board of Women’s Century Magazine.  In 1979 The Toronto City Council established an award in her name commemorating the Privy Council Decision of 1929 requiring the federal government to recognize women as “persons”. The women members of Toronto City Council select the recipient(s) of the Constance E. Hamilton Award.  Source: City of Toronto online http://www.toronto.ca (Accessed 2010) ; “Toronto Pioneer mostly forgotten” by Mark Mahoney, Toronto Star, March 10, 2007.
 

Mary Ellen Smith.  (née Spear). Born Tavistock, England October 11, 1863.  Died May 3, 1933. After the death of her political husband in 1917  she ran in the by-election for his seat and in 1921 became the first woman elected to the British Columbia provincial legislature and the first woman Cabinet Minister in the entire British Empire. She resigned from Cabinet in 1922 but remained as MPP until 1928.

Agnes Campbell Macphail.  Born Preston Township., Grey County, Ontario March 24, 1890. Died February 13, 1954. She was the only woman elected to the Canadian parliament in 1921 when women first had the right to vote for parliament. She was the first woman to sit in the House of Commons as a Member of the Canadian Parliament. She was also the first woman to be appointed as a member of the Canadian delegation to the League of Nations (forerunner to the United Nations.) The first woman to inspect Kingston Penitentiary, which left her with a life long advocate for better conditions of women in prison. Losing her federal seat in the 1940 election, Agnes turned her attention to provincial politics and in 1943 she was one of two women first elected to the Ontario Legislative Assemble. She was the founder of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada which even today works to give help to women in need.
 
1930"s
Cairine Reay Wilson (née Mackay) Born February 4, 1885, Montreal, Quebec. Died March 3, 1962, Ottawa Ontario.  A child of an influential and wealthy family in Montreal, Cairine grew up bilingual with a keen interest in keeping informed with life. She often travelled with her father to Ottawa and admired a family friend, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. In 1909 she married Norman Wilson (   1956) and the young couple moved to Cumberland Township near Ottawa to have their family of 8 children. In 1918 they retained their Cumberland property but moved to downtown Ottawa. While her family was at home Cairine was active in her church and the local Red cross. Once her family was growing she become more interested in the life in Ottawa Politics and she became co-president of the Eastern Ontario Liberal Association. On February 15, 1930,  Prime Minister William Lion Mackenzie, appointed her as Canada’s 1st woman in the Senate. She would prefer to be remembered for her work to serve refugees and for being outspoken against anti-Semitism in Canada. She did not pull punches and spoke up for what she believed. At the beginning of the upheaval in Europe in World War ll William Lion Mackenzie King was reluctant to accept Jewish refugees as immigrants to Canada. Cairine worked to accept 100 orphans into Canada. A Television Historical Minute telecast shows viewed in the 1990’s shows Wilson arguing the case for refugees.  She served as chair of the Canadian National Committee on Refugees 1938-1948, and was Canada’s 1st woman delegate to the new United Nations in 1949. In 1950 she was presented with the Knight of the Legion of Honour, the highest civilian honour from France, for her work on behalf of  child refugees. In 1955 she became the 1st woman Deputy Speaker in the Canadian Senate. A secondary School in Orleans, located not far from the Wilson family farm in Cumberland Township, is named in her honour. She is buried in Dale Cemetery near her former farm and her tombstone simply reads “Appointed to the Senate 1930” Sources First Person, Valerie Knowles (Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1988 ; Heroines.ca online . ; personal knowledge
Helena Walker Née Masters. Born 1867 Wolfeville, Nova Scotia. Died 1963, Regina, Saskatchewan. She earned her masters degree from the Nova Scotia, University, Halifax and in 1912 moved to the Saskatchewan to teach school. She attended Regina Normal School (Teachers college) in 1914. In 1920 she married Ashley Walker. The couple would have two children. Since married women could not work as teachers she had to find other places to use her energies. In 1925 she was elected to the Regina Public School Board and became chair in 1927. In 1932 she became the first woman to not only run but win the elected position of elected alderman for the City of Regina. She was always known as Alderman Mrs. Ashley Walker, she never used her own first name. She served the city in this position for 9 years. She insisted the city hire women police officers and was president of the Women’s Voluntary Services for World War ll. She also served in the 1930’s and 1940’s on the Regina Public Library Board and the welfare services Board. She was president of the Local Council of Women, the University Women’s Club and the Women’s Canadian Club. Upon her death the citizens of Regina learned that her first name was Helena. Source: City of Regina. Heritage & History. Online. (Accessed January 2012.)

Barbara Hanley. Died January 26, 1959. On January 6, 1936, with a margin of 13 votes, Mrs. Hanley became the first woman to be elected to the position of Mayor of a town in CanadaThe town of Webwood, Ontario is located some 50 miles west of Sudbury. Mrs. Hanley would fight to ensure proper homes for the aged. Did she do a good job? She was elected to eight consecutive terms as mayor. The voters must have felt that she was a good mayor.

Nancy Hodges  named Speaker of the British Columbia Provincial Legislature, is the first woman to hold the post of Speaker in the British Commonwealth December 12, 1949.

Thésèse Casgrain. (née Forget). Born Montreal, Quebec July 10, 1896. Died November 2, 1981. She is remembered for her campaign for women’s right to vote (suffrage) in the province of Québec before WW II. (Quebec, the last province to grant women the vote, passing legislation only in 1940.) She continued a career in politics becoming the first Canadian woman to lead a provincial political party. She was the leader of the Quebec CCF Party from 1951-1957. In 1970 she was appointed to the Senate of Canada. She is considered a leading woman of 20th century Canada.

Rt. Hon. Ellen Louks Fairclough. Born Hamilton, Ontario January 28, 1905. Died November 13, 2004. Her first career was as an accountant. She owned her own firm when she was elected to Hamilton City council in 1946. In 1950 she was elected to the House of Commons in Ottawa. She was the first woman to be appointed to the post of a Cabinet Minister in the Canadian Parliament in 1957. In 1989 she was presented with the Persons Award. In 1992 the Queen invested her with the title "Right Honorable". She was made a Companion in the Order of Canada in 1995. You can read about her remarkable life in her memoirs which were published in 1995 under the title Saturday's Child. She currently lives in a retirement community in Hamilton.

Nora Frances Henderson. Born Hampstead England 1913. Died 1949. In 1919 she began her journalist career at the Hamilton Herald newspaper and became Women's editor in 1921. She always encouraged women to take their place within the community and soon women were appointed to the Hamilton Hospital Board as well as appointments to other organizations. In 1934 Nora became the first woman in Canada elected to a city Board of Control She would be elected 16 consecutive times to this position. In 1947 she retired to become Executive Secretary of the Association of Children’s Aid Societies of Ontario.

1940's
Gladys Grace May Strum. Born Saskatchewan February 4, 1906. Died British Columbia August 15, 2005 A mother and a farmer’s wife she understood issues facing rural Saskatchewan. When her husband became ill her interest in Politics reached fulfillment. At 16 she was teaching a rural one room schoolhouse. She would later not only attend teachers college but she would , as a mature student, earn her B.A. and B. Ed. At the University of Saskatchewan. While teaching she met and married Warner Strum on November 16, 1929. The had one daughter. At one time she traveled to New Zealand to see if it would provide a better living condition for her ill husband. The family remained in Saskatchewan. Gladys ran unsuccessfully to be a member of the provincial parliament in 1938 and 1944.. She did however go on to become the first woman president of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation C.C.F. party making her the first Canadian woman to be president of a political party in Canada. In 1945 she was elected Member of Parliament in Ottawa for Qu’Apelle, Saskatchewan, where she sat in the House of Commons with 244 male members. She was the first woman of the C.C.F. elected to the Canadian Parliament. She was defeated in the 1949 election and returned to teach in Saskatchewan. In 1952 the family moved to British Columbia in the hops of easing Warner’s health. In 1953 she ran for parliament but6 was again defeated. The family returned to Saskatchewan and Gladys became principal of a school in Uranium City. By 1960 she was an elected member of Provincial Parliament where she would vote on the famous Saskatchewan medical Act in 1962. She and her husband returned once again to British Columbia to be near their daughter and grandchildren in retirement. Source: Saskatchewan Encyclopedia online August 2011
1950's

Charlotte Whitton. Born Renfrew, Ontario March 8, 1896. Died January 25, 1975. This social worker, politician, and feminist was a colourful, energetic, outspoken, flamboyant individual.  In the 1920’s she was a relentless crusader for professional standards of juvenile immigrants and neglected children. She was the spark that ignited the Canadian Council on Child Welfare.  She was in demand across North America as a lecturer on social programs. When she became mayor of Ottawa in 1951 she was the first woman in Canada to be a mayor of a major metropolitan area. In November 1950 , Whitton entered Ottawa City politics when she won a seat on what was then called the board of control. When the elected mayor died the next year she succeeded him. She was elected mayor in 1952, 1954, 1960 and 1964 and later served as an alderman until 1972. 

Tilly Jean Rolston Born February. 23, 1887, Vancouver British Columbia. Died October 12, 1953, Vancouver, British Columbia. She attended the University of British Columbia when it was connected to McGill University, Montreal. She left teaching to marry Frederick James Rolston in 1909 and raised a family of three children. Tilly worked closely with many associations and clubs including being  a director of the Vancouver-based Pacific National Exhibition, an Honorary President of the Women's Canadian Club, president of the Oratorio Society, Quota Club, and the Travel Women's Club. She was also the founding chairman of the Theatre Under the Stars, board member of the YWCA auxiliary and of the Vancouver Symphony Society. While a homemaker she continued her interest in politics and actually entered politics as an elected Progressive Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in1941. In 1951 she sat as an Independent for the remainder of the session. She became a supporter of W.A.C. Bennett and in the 1952 B.C. election in Vancouver-Port Grey, she was elected as a Social Credit candidate and named education minister. She was the second woman in British Columbia to be appointed to the cabinet and the first woman in all of Canada to hold a specific portfolio. She was a staunch advocate education for every child. Source: http://www.viu.ca/homeroom/content/topics/people/rolston.htm (Accessed December 2012.

Elizabeth Pauline MacCallum.  Born June 20, 1895.  She joined the Department of External Affairs in 1942 and was an advisor in 1945 and the founding of the United Nations.  In 1954 she was chargé d’affairs in Beirut, the first woman to head a Canadian foreign mission.  Upon retirement she began to write on the Middle East.

Blanche Margaret Meagher.  Born Halifax, Nova Scotia January 27, 1911.  Died February 25, 1999. This diplomat was one of 4 pioneering women in the administration of the Canadian federal government where she worked at the Department of External Affairs. She served in Mexico and London and then in 1958 she was the first woman to become appointed as an ambassador for Canada. She served as Canadian ambassador to Israel, Austria Sweden.
1960's
Jean Casselman Wadds. Born September 16, 1920 Newton Robinson, Ontario. Died November 25, 2011 Prescott, Ontario. She Married Azra Casselman who represented the electoral district of Grenville-Dundas, Ontario from 1925-1958. Jean was elected in 1958 and served in her husband’s riding in the House of Commons for ten years. She was the third woman to be elected to the Canadian Parliament. Her father was also a Member of Parliament, Earle Rowe and the became the only father daughter ever to sit in the same session of the Canadian Parliament. She was the first woman appointed to serve as Parliamentary Secretary. In 1961 she was the first woman appointed by the Canadian Government as a delegate to the United Nations. In 1979 she was the first woman to be appointed as Canadian High Commissioner to Great Britain. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau would credit her as one of the three key women along with Queen Elizabeth and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, responsible for the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution. In 1982 she received the Order of Canada. She was a strong supporter of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the St Lawrence Shakespearian Festival. Suggested Reading: Prescott 1810-2010. Sources: Obituary. Ottawa Citizen December 3, 2011. Suggestion submitted by June Coxon, Ottawa.
Dorothy Annabelle Straton McPhedran. Born Underwood, Ontario June 14, 1921. Died January 2012. In 1942 she graduated with and honours B.A. in history from Victoria College, University of Toronto. She married and had a son but divorced in 1952 after suffering abuse. Overcoming stigma of divorce Dorothy taught in Kincardin before becoming head of the History Department of Northern and St. Clair Colleges.. In 1964 she was promoted as the first woman to be Inspector of schools for the Ontario Ministry of Education. In 1974 she married Bruce ”Alex” McPhedran and she completed course work for her PhD in Education at the University of Ottawa. In 1975 she became the first woman appointed special Assistant and Women’s Advisor for the Deputy Minister of Education. She had a love of travel and traveled to numerous countries around the world. Including going behind the Iron Curtain to Russia. She was a long time volunteer with Meals on Wheels, delivering meals to those who needed them well into her 80’s. Source: Obituary Globe and Mail January 2, 2012.  Suggestion submitted by June Coxon, Ottawa Ontario.

Louise-Marguerite-Renaude Lapointe. Born Disraeli, Quebec January 3, 1912.  Her early studies in Music and foreign languages were useful to the journalist who first newspaper post saw her responsible for music criticism and women’s issues. She would be the first Canadian woman to become an editorial writer in 1965 which was marked with her being named “journalist of the year” In November 1971 she was appointed to the Senate of Canada where she would be the first French Canadian Woman to hold the position of Speaker of the Senate.

Jean Edmonds. Born 1921. After her studies at the University of Manitoba, Jean would spend the first twenty years of her career as a journalist for the Financial Post newspaper. In 1964 she joined the federal government public service. In 1966 she became the first woman executive in the federal government as an executive director with the Department of Manpower and Immigration. She would go on to the level of assistant Deputy Minister with the Department of Regional Economic Development. In 1988 she became chairperson of the Task Force on Barriers to Women in the Public Service and would publish the ground breaking report called Beneath the Veneer. The current Citizenship and Immigration Canada is headquartered in the Jean Edmonds Towers.
1970's
Mabel Margaret Van Camp Born Blackstock, Ontario 1920. Died April 19, 2012 Toronto, Ontario. She finished high school at 16 and was the first person from Blackstock to attend university. After graduating from the University of Toronto she studied at Osgoode Law school and was called to the bar in 1947.  Women were not well accepted in the profession and it took her awhile to find a firm that would hire her. Soon she was leading the firm when the boss was off sick. The firm became Beaudoin, Pepper and Van Camp. In 1965 she was appointed to the Queen’s Bench. In 1971 she was appointed as the 1st woman to the Ontario Supreme Court by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. A proper title was finally accepted when she became Madam Justice. She was also the 1st woman member of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. A true pioneer and mentor for women in the profession.  Her charities included the IODE, the YWCA for which she was President in Toronto in the 1960’s. In 2003 she was awarded the Order of Ontario. Source; ”I am the damn judge” by William Illsey Atkinson. The Globe and Mail. August 9, 2012.  Suggestion submitted by June Coxon, Ottawa.
Monique Bégin. Born Rome, Italy March 1, 1936. She was first woman from Québec to be elected to the House of Commons in Ottawa in 1972. She distinguished herself as the executive secretary-general of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. During her political Career she would serve as Minister of National Revenue, then as Minister of National Health and Welfare. She was responsible for increases in old-age supplements for needy senior citizens and the child tax credit and a new health law which strengthened the health insurance system. 
Pauline Emily McGibbon.  (née Mills). Born  Sarnia, Ontario October 20, 1910. Died December 14, 2001. A long time volunteer for various charities and groups including being president of the Imperial order of the Daughters of the Empire, she was also chancellor at the University of Toronto.  She was appointed Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Ontario (1974-1980) and became the 1st Canadian woman to obtain such a position. She was also the first woman to fill the following wide-ranging positions:  Chancellor of the University of Toronto, President of the Canadian Conference of the Arts, and Director of four major Canadian companies: George Weston, IBM, Imasco and Mercedes Benz.
Sylvia Ostry  (née Knelman) Born Winnipeg, Manitoba June 3, 1927. She started her university studies at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec,  earning a BA, MA and PhD. She has studied and worked with many other universities in Canada, U.S.A. and England. She has had a strong three decade career as a civil servant holding administrative and political positions in various Canadian government departments, including being Chief Statistician 1972-1975. She would be the first woman to hold the rank of Deputy Minister in the government of Canada February 18, 1976.
Mary Wong. Born Hamilton, Ontario. In 1943 she and her husband opened a family restaurant in Hamilton, Ontario. She soon became involved with her home community as principal of the National Chinese School and as a Chinese interpreter in the city courts. She served as a member of the Canadian consultative council on Multiculturalism. In 1977 Mary Wong was the first Canadian of Chinese descent to be appointed as a Citizenship Court Judge. She retired from the "bench" ( as a judge) in 1985. She is an appointee to the Hamilton [Ontario] Gallery of Distinction.
Nellie J. Cournoyea.  Born Aklavik, Northwest Territories March 4, 1940.  Nellie grew up traveling and hunting in the traditional manner of her people. In the 1960’s she worked as an announcer for the CBC radio. She co-founded a political association to help the people of Inuvialuit which gave her an active role in the 1984 land claim. In 1979 she was elected to the Legislature of the Northwest Territories and became the first native woman to lead a provincial territorial government in Canada.
1980's
Roberta Jamieson. Roberta Louise Jamieson Born 1953. Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Ontario. A Mohawk and member of the Bear Clan, as a youth she loved to read because even then she knew that education was important. At first, she wanted to be a medical doctor and even enrolled in medical school at McGill University, Montreal. She quickly became intrigued with politics and decided that to solve issued for her people she should attend law school at the University of Western Ontario, London. Graduating in 1976 she was the first aboriginal woman to become a lawyer in Canada! She was named to head the first Ontario Indian Commission and in 1982 she was the first non-parliamentarian to join a House of Commons Committee, the Special Task Force on Indian Self Government. December 1986 she began a ten year position as Ontario Ombudsman, the first woman and the first aboriginal person to hold this post. Roberta was elected Chief of Six Nations of the Grand River in November 2001, again the first woman to hold this post. She also ran in 2003 for National Chief but was defeated by Phil Fontaine. She has over the years also participated on several boards and committees at various local, provincial and national levels. She is the founding chair of the Imagine Native, an international media arts festival showcasing work of world indigenous artists. Married with one daughter she is also proud to be a grandmother. Life has brought her many awards for her achievements to date, including multiple honorary doctorate, a membership in the Order of Canada, 1994 and the National Aboriginal Award in 1998.  Source: Roberta Jamieson: Chief Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Contemporary Canadian Biographies. Thompson Gale, August 2003. (Accessed online June 2008.)

Daurene Lewis. Born 1943 Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Died January 26, 2013, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Daurene was proud of her maritime black history roots which reached back to USA revolutionary slaves escaping to Nova Scotia. Her family strongly believed in education for their children. Daurene studied Nursing at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. She worked for a short time in Toronto before returning home to care for her ill mother. Her mother was an accomplished weaver and Daurene learned from her making weaving her avocation and opening her own artistic studio. In 1979 she realized that in order to advocate needed change she must get involved and she became the 1st Black woman to run for Annapolis Town Council. In 1982 she was appointed town mayor.  And became the 1st Black woman in Canada to become a mayor in 1984. She did not want her ethnicity to be her legacy and worked hard to move the town ahead. After her term as mayor in 1988 she became the 1st Black woman in Nova Scotia to run in a provincial election. She was not successful in her bid for the provincial assembly and left politics. She worked in education of the arts and became principal of the two Nova Scotia Community College campuses. Helping to open a new campus in Dartmouth. She earned a masters degree in Business Administration at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and served as executive director of Mount St Vincent University Centre for Women in Business. In 2002 she was recognized for her works with the Order of Canada. She would serve on the Premier’s Council on the Economy, chair the Africville Heritage Trust where she was instrumental in building a replica of Halifax’s Africville Church. Source: “She was Canada’s 1st Black female Mayor”. by Allison Lawlor, The Globe and Mail, February 12, 2013 Suggestion submitted by June Coxon, Ottawa, Ontario

Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé . (née Benoit) Born Prud'homme, Saskatchewan April 26, 1922. Died January 26, 1993. A journalist turned politician she became the first woman appointed as Speaker of the House of Commons in Ottawa and the first woman to be appointed Governor General of Canada. Did you know that her hair was so brilliantly white that she had to put a light blue colour in it to tone it down for the Commons TV cameras?

Bertha Wilson. (née Wernham).  Born Kirkaldy, Scotland September 18, 1923.  She and her husband immigrated to Canada in 1957. She was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1975 where she became known for her “imaginative and humane decisions”. (Canadian Encyclopedia) She was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Muriel McQueen Fergusson. Born Shediac, New Brunswick May 26,1899. Died April 11, 1997.  After her Husbands death she took over his law practice. She worked to have women recognized as possible appointees to government positions. She was one of the early women senators and is credited with pushing the government o revise the Criminal Code so women could sit on juries in criminal cases. Women could now plead rape charges with women on the jury! She was the first woman to be appointed as Speaker in the Senate. Her home province is home to a Family Violence Research Centre named in her honour.

2000's
 
Mobina Jaffer Born August 20, 1949 Kampala, Uganda. In 1972 she earned a bachelor of law at London University, London, England. After immigrating to Canada she was called to the bar in British Columbia where she opened her own practice. She is married and the couple have two children. She was appointed Queens Counsel in 1993. She ran unsuccessfully for a position in the Canadian Parliament in a Vancouver riding in 1993 and also in 1997. 1994 through 1998 she was Vice President of the Liberal Party of Canada. From 1998 to 2003 she was President of the National Women’s Liberal Commission. She was appointed the Senate of Canada on June 13, 2001 by Prime Minister Jean Creitien. She is the 1st Muslim Senator in Canada and the 1st of Asian descent. From 2002 through 2006 she was Canada’s Special Envoy in Sudan. 2002-2005 she served as Chair on the Canadian Committee on women, peace and security. 2003 and again in 2004 she was on the list of Canada’s Top 100 most powerful women. Source: Canada. Senate of Canada. Mabina Jaffer. Online accessed May 2013.

 

 

Iona Campagnolo.  Born Galiano Island, British Columbia October 18, 1932.  She began her working career as a broadcaster in her native British Columbia in 1965. She became very involved in her community, being head of the local school board, and alderman and finally elected as a Member of Parliament for Skeena from 1974 to 1979. In 1976 she came to the national spotlight when she became Minister of Fitness and Amateur Sport. She returned to politics as the first woman President of the Liberal Party of Canada from 1982 to 1986 Now a private citizen she retains her interest in politics and can be seen and heard making political comment on major current topics. 

Rosemary Brown Born Kingston, Jamaica  1930. Died April 26, 2003.  She believed in justice for all and worked tirelessly to ease violence and poverty in Canada and internationally. In 1972 she became the first Canadian Black women to be elected to public office when she was elected to the British Columbia Legislature. In 1975 she was the first woman to run for the head of a Canadian political party. On the last ballot she was second to Ed Broadbent of the New Democratic Party. She served as President of MATCH International, an international organization that supports women in the third world. She was a founding mother of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Among her many awards are 15 honorary degrees from universities! Dr Brown was an officer in the Order of Canada. In 1989 she wrote her autobiography. There is a biography for youth to read by Lynette Roy,   Brown girl in the ring: Rosemary Brown [Toronto: Sister Vision, 1992]

Mary J. May Simon. Born Kangiqsaulujjuaq, Nunuvik, Quebec August 21, 1947. She was a member of a family of eight children brought up in Canada’s arctic region. Since her father was white, she and her siblings, by law, could not attend school after grade 6 so their became schooled at home by their father. All would graduate high school. May became an announcer and producer of Inaktitut radio and television programs for CBC Northern Services. She left the CBC to become Vice President and later President of the Makivik Corporation which was established to oversee proper implementation of provided resources for the Inuit peoples. In 1994 she became Canada’s first ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and from 1999 to 2000 she was Ambassador to Denmark, the first Inuit woman in this type of diplomatic role. In 2005 she received an honourary degree from Trent University. In 1991 she became a member of the Order of Canada and in 2005 an officer of the order. In 1992 she received the Order of Quebec. She also holds the Gold Order of Greenland. In 2011 she became special advisor to the Labrador Inuit Association. She is also the founding Chair of the Arctic Children’s and Youth Foundation to ensuring access to higher education for all who seek it. Source: Mary May Simon; Canada’s first Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs by Sierra Bacquie. Section15.ca accessed June 2011. ; Order of Canada website. Accessed June 2011.

Vivienne Poy. Born May 15, 1941. A fashion designer, entrepreneur and author, Vivienne is the first Canadian of Chinese descent to be a member of the Senate of Canada, appointed in 1998.  She was educated in her native Hong Kong and England and holds a B.A., McGill University, a M.A, & a PhD. from the University of Toronto, where she is Chancellor Emeritus.  Her extensive community endeavors include being involved with cultural and philanthropic causes across Canada. She is Honourary Co-Chair for the Campaign for Diversity with the Canadian Centre for Diversity, Honourary Patron of the Ottawa Chinatown Gateway Project, and the International Centre of Winnipeg and remains an active supporter of many other organizations. She was instrumental in having May recognized as Asian Heritage Month in Canada, and serves as Patron for Asian Heritage Month Societies in cities across Canada.  She was named a Trailblazer by Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women (Women’s Executive Network), and received an International Women's Day Award.  In recognition of her international influence, she has received honourary degrees from universities around the world.

Alexa McDonough. Born Ottawa, Ontario August 11, 1944. Alexa studied at Dalhousie University and the Maritime School of Social work.  In 1980 she became the first woman to lead a recognized political part in Canada. As a social worker she had chosen politics as her avenue to improve her community by leading the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party (NDP) . In 1995 she was elected as leader of the national NDP. She stepped down from her leadership position in January 2003 but retained her seat in the House of Commons to continue to serve her constituents.

Audrey McLaughlin.  Born Dutton, Ontario November 7, 1936.   In 1989 she was elected leader of the New Democratic Party. She was the first woman in Canadian history to lead a federal political party. After moving to the Yukon, she worked on various projects such as improving child welfare legislation, research on land claims and aboriginal self-government.

Sheila Maureen Copps.  Born Hamilton, Ontario November 27, 1952. Sheila followed her father by choosing the profession of politics. She was the first sitting member of Canadian Parliament to give birth (1987), and the first woman Deputy Prime Minister.

Phyllis Marion Boyd. Born March 26, 1946. She was elected to the Ontario Legislative Assembly in 1990. She has held several cabinet posts including Minister responsible for Women's Issues and Attorney-General for the Province of Ontario.  She is the first woman and the first non lawyer to have been Ontario's Attorney General.  She has been honoured many times for her work on behalf of battered women, an area in which she still serves with great zeal. 

Andrée Champagne. Born Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec July 17, 1939. An accomplished pianist and actor on radio and television she also worked hard for her profession and established the 1st Canadian retirement home for artists, Le Chez Nous des Artistes.  She began a career in politics in 1984. Elected to the House of Commons in Ottawa, she was immediately appointed to Cabinet in the position of Minister of State for Youth. In 1990 she became the first woman to be appointed as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. She has now retired from active politics and returned to private life.

Rita Margaret Johnston. (née Leichert). Born Melville, Saskatchewan April 22, 1935. She was first elected to the Surry, British Columbia, city council in 1970. In 1983 she was elected to the British Columbia provincial assembly becoming Minister of Municipal Affairs and Transit in 1986. In 1991 she became the first woman to serve as a provincial premier in Canada. 

Ethel Blodwin-Andrews. Born March 25, 1951. She was the first Native woman elected to the Canadian Parliament and to become a member of Cabinet.

Avril Kim Campbell. Born Port Alberni, British Columbia March 10, 1947. She studied in British Columbia and at the London School of Economics. She taught at University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Community College and then worked for Premier Bill Bennett's office in Victoria, British Columbia. She left the Social Credit Party and joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and won a seat in the federal House of Commons in 1988. She served as Minister of Indian Affairs, then became the first woman to serve as Minister of Justice and later she was the first woman to be Minister of Defense. In 1993 when she was the first woman elected as leader of the PC Party she became the first woman Prime Minister of Canada.

Joyce Fairbairn. Born Lethbridge, Alberta November 6, 1939.  She studied for a B.A. in Alberta and took her degree in journalism from Carleton University in 1961.  After working as  a journalist in the Parliamentary Press Gallery she became Legislative Assistant to Prime Minister Trudeau for 14 years. She was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1984. She is very proud to have been inducted into the Kainai Chieftainship of the Blood Nation and given the name of Morning Bird Woman. In 1993 she was appointed to the Privy Council of Canada and was the first woman to be named Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister with Special Responsibility for Literacy. 

Lise Thibault. Born Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, Quebec April 2, 1939. As a young mother. Lise became involved in Local school committees. She would found Les Femmes d’aujourd’hui and was a teacher in adult education. She remained committed to community, cultural, political and social activities when she was a TV host for social and family oriented programming. She sat on various provincial government committees, was Director of the Quebec Bureau for the Handicapped, and worked with the Canadian Red Cross. In 1977 she became the first woman ever to hold the office of Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. 

Maryann Elizabeth Francis. Born Sydney, Nova Scotia. From 1966 through 1970 Maryann practiced her profession as a registered x-ray technologist. She then decided to earn her BA at St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1972 she became a Human Rights Officer with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. In 1974 she received the Silver Plaque from the NSHRC for outstanding contribution to her chosen filed. She took time to earn her Masters of Public Administration from New York University in 1984. From August 1999 through July 2006 she served as the first woman permanent director of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. In 2000 she became the first woman appointed as Nova Scotia’s Ombudsman. She was the first African Canadian woman to head the Ontario Woman’s Directorate, a government organization supporting and celebrating the achievement of women. She served in this position from 1994 through July 1997. In 2006 Maryann Frances was appointed the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia. Source: Office of Nova Scotia Lieutenant-Governor online. Accessed June 2011.

 

Phyllis Marion Boyd. Born Toronto, Ontario March 26, 1946. She completed her studies at York University and began working in areas that would define her future political beliefs. She was awarded the Outstanding Young Londoner in 1986. and the Mary Campbell Community Service Award. She worked for battered women's advocacy. The London status of women action group. And the London coordination on family violence. She was elected as a member of the provincial parliament of Ontario from London Centre in 1990 and served in the provincial cabinet as Minister of Education and Minister of Community and Social Services before becoming the first woman and first non-lawyer to be Ontario Attorney General from 1993-1995.

Beverly McLachlin. Born Pincher Creek, Alberta September 7, 1943. She practiced law in Edmonton, Alberta and in British Columbia before she took up a teaching position in law at the University of British Columbia. In 1981 she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia and by 1988 was the Chief Justice in British Columbia. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed her to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1989. On January 7, 2000 she was the first woman to become Chief Justice of Canada.

Louise Frechette is the first Canadian woman ambassador to the United Nations 1991.
2000's
Bev  Oda. Born Thunder Bay, Ontario July 7, 1944. After earning her BA from the University of Toronto she began her working career as a teacher but soon switched to broadcasting. She worked with TV Ontario, City TV and the Global Television Network and retired in 1999 from the position of VP with CTV and Baton Broadcasting. She also served on the Canadian Radio and Television Commission. In November 2003 she was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Her retirement was short lived as she ran successfully as a member of Parliament in the Ontario riding of Durham in 2004 and became Canada's first Japanese - Canadian MP.

Michaelle Jean Born September 6 1957 Port au Prince, Haiti.  She emigrated with her family in 1968 to live in Canada’s Province of Quebec. After she completed her Masters of Arts at the University of Montreal she took up teaching. She also worked for the betterment in the lives of women and children in crisis by contributing to the establishment of safe shelters. Taking some time off work,  she studied language arts in Italy. She is fluent in five languages, French, English, Spanish, Italian and Creole. Returning to Canada she began an energetic broadcast journalism career with Radio-Canada and earned the right to have her won show. Her journalistic efforts were put to use to create an awareness in human rights. Her efforts  gained her awards and recognition from the Human Rights League of Canada, Amnesty International , Canada and awards such as the Prix Mirelle-Lanctot, the Galaxi Award and being made a Citizen of Hounour by Montreal. She is married and has a daughter, Marie Eden. She was invested as Canada’s 27th and first Afro-Caribbean Governor General in September 2005.

 
Yonah Martin Born April 11, 1965 Seoul, Korea. Yonah immigrated to Canada with her family in 1972. In 1986 she had earned her B.A. at the University of British Columbia followed the next year with her Master’s in Education. She proudly worked over twenty years as an educator. In 1990 she married Doug Martin and the couple had one daughter. In 2003 she co-founded a non-profit organization Korean Canadian C3, a community organization of volunteers who embrace cultural diversity and bridge Korean Canadian communities by providing cultural education and volunteer resources. She has also served on numerous boards and committees including: the Multicultural Advisory Council of British Columbia and the Canadian Paralympics Foundation. As an educator she is interested in mentoring youth and is actively involved with the Executive Mentorship Program of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. In 2004 she received the Spirit of Community Award for Cultural Harmony and in 2009 she received the Order of Civil Merit Moran Medal from the Republic of Korea. She is the first Korean Canadian Parliamentarian, appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  Sources: C3Society.corg (accessed December 2011) ; Senate of Canada online (accessed December 2011)

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