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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.
Lady Helena E.
(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
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.
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.
Herstory: The Canadian Women's calendar. 2008 (Saskatoon Women's
Calendar Collective / Coteau Books, 2007)
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
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
to become a Magistrate when she was appointed a police magistrate for
Alberta in 1916.
She would go on to also be provincial magistrate for
supporter of some 20 volunteer organizations
she was the first
national president of the Federated Women’s Institutes of
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.
Roberta Catherine MacAdams
Born July 21, 1880, Sarnia, Ontario. Died December 16, 1959, Calgary,
Alberta. Roberta was a graduate from Macdonald Institute of the Ontario
Agricultural College, Guelph, Ontario (Now University of Guelph.) In
1912 she was hired by the Alberta Government to offer “institute”
courses for rural women across the province. As well the Alberta
Department of Agriculture had her conduct a survey to determine the
viability of a provincial Women’s Institute. Roberta was what was called
a new woman participating in society out of the home in non-traditional
ways through education, employment and civic engagement. In 1914-1916
she worked for the Edmonton Public School Board creating the 1st
Department of Domestic Economy (Home economics) in Alberta. In 1916 she
left her job to serve as a lieutenant during World War l. She served as
a dietitian in the Canadian Military Hospital in Orpington, England. In
1917 the Alberta Military Representation Act allowed the 38,000 Alberta
soldiers and 75 nurses overseas to elect 2 representative to the
On September 17, 1917 Robert Pearson and Roberta MacAdams were elected.
Roberta was the second woman in the Empire after fellow Albertan Louise
McKinney to be elected to office. In 1918 she became the 1st
woman in the British Empire to introduce legislation when she brought
forward a bill to incorporate the War Veterans Next of Kin Association
Bill. After the 1st
legislative session she was back in Britain with the Khaki University
which provided women’s staff for continuing education for overseas
Canadian forces. Back in Alberta in 1919 she served as district Director
of the Soldiers Land Settlement Board. After this position Roberts
married lawyer Harvey Price and was less prominent in the public eye.
Source: Our Future, Our
Heritage. The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project. Online
(Accessed May 2014) ; Roberta MacAdams and the New Woman.
Alberta’s Women’s Institute. Online (Accessed May 2014).
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)
Sharp) Born January 12, 1865, Woodstock, New Brunswick. Died April 11,
1937. In 1883 she took training in piano and voice in New York City,
U.S.A. On September 12, 1899 she married Edwin Tappan Adney (1868-1950)
an artist and writer. The couple raised one son but the marriage meant
long periods of separation for the family. Minnie used her musical
talents to run the Woodstock School of Music for two decades. She became
interested in womens rights and politics and would become the
1st woman candidate in a federal
election in New Brunswick. She
attempted to run as an independent candidate in a federal by-election in
in the riding of Victoria Carleton. Even though women by this
time had the right to vote had just recently been allowed to run for
political positions and in this by-election her name did not appear on
the ballot because her papers had been “lost” and she was disqualified
as a candidate. In the 1921 general election she was unable to raise the
$200.00 fee required to register her nomination. Her name finally
appeared on the ballot for the 1925 Federal General Election but she
only received 84 votes. Source:
New Brunswick Womens’ History ww.nbwomenshistory.ca (Accessed March
Mary Ellen Smith
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
Labour Organization conference in
Switzerland. She served as president of the BC Liberal Party in the
Vancouver Hall of Fame Online (Accessed November 2012. : The
Canadian Encyclopedia online (Accessed November 2012)
(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
Born Frankville, Ontario September 22,1868. Died July 10, 1931.
She was one of the first women to be elected
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”
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.
of Toronto online
http://www.toronto.ca (Accessed 2010) ; “Toronto Pioneer mostly
forgotten” by Mark Mahoney, Toronto Star, March 10, 2007.
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
Grey County, Ontario
March 24, 1890. Died
1954. She was the only woman elected to the Canadian parliament in
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
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.
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.
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”
First Person, Valerie Knowles (Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1988 ;
Heroines.ca online .
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.
1932 she became the first woman to not only run but win the elected
position of elected alderman for the City of Regina.
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.)
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
The 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,
the first woman to hold the post of Speaker in the British Commonwealth
December 12, 1949.
(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
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.
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
council in 1946. In 1950 she was elected to the House of Commons in
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
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
|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
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
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.
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
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.
(Accessed December 2012.
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
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
London and then
in 1958 she was the first woman to become appointed as an
ambassador for Canada.
She served as Canadian ambassador to
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.
Obituary. Ottawa Citizen December 3, 2011.
Suggestion submitted by June Coxon, Ottawa.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
(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.
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,
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
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
and became the first native woman to lead a
provincial territorial government in
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.
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.)
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.
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
“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 April 26, 1922, Howell, Saskatchewan. Died January 26,
1993, Montreal, Quebec. The Benoit family moved to Ottawa when Jeanne
was just a toddler. She attended the University of Ottawa earning her
tuition by working as a government translator. While working in
Montreal Jeanne met Maurice Sauvé. The two were married on September
24, 1948. The couple would have one son. The young newly weds headed
first to London England and then to Paris where Jeanne worked at the
Youth Secretariat of UNESCO. In 1951 she attended university at the
Sorbonne earning a degree in French Civilization. In 1952, while living
in St Hyacinthe, Quebec Jeanne helped found the Institute of Political
Research and began working as a broadcast journalist for the CBC. She
earned a position in the male bastion of political journalism and from
1956-1963 she hosted her own television show, Opinions. In
she ran for a seat in the House of Commons and became
the 1st Quebec woman in a
federal cabinet with the
position of Minister of State for Science and Technology. She would
later serve in cabinet positions in the environment and Communications.
On April 14, 1980 she was appointed as 1st
woman to be Speaker to the House of Commons.
When television camera first came to record proceedings of the house,
Sauvé was asked to put some blue colouring in her dazzling white hair
which was too bright for television filming. Her time as Speaker was
known for its cuts in expenses and for starting the 1st
daycare for Parliament Hill. On
May 14, 1984 Jeanne Sauvé
was sworn in as the 23rd Governor General of Canada since
confederation. She was the 1st woman to receive this
position. She served in this position until 1993 fostering youth
peace programs, creating the Governor General’s Award for Safety in the
workplace and supporting nationalism. Upon retirement she established
the Sauvé Foundation where she worked until her death. The Jeanne Sauvé
Trophy is presented in World Cup Women’s Field Hockey. In 1994 Canada
Post issued a postage stamp in her honour.
(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
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.
January 9, 1938, Ottawa, Ontario. Died February 16, 2013. She attended
the University of Ottawa earning her BA and then her teacher’s
Certificate. She would teach in area schools for 30 years. She married
Jean-Robert Boyer and the couple raised three children. She was an
active member of the Association des enseignants et des enseignants
franco-Ontariens, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian
Teacher’s Federation. In 1982 she was elected as trustee to the Ottawa
Board of Education where she served until 1986. With the establishment
of a French Language School Board she joined the L ‘Association
Canadienne-Francaise de l ‘Ontario. In 1990 through 1994 she served as
President of the Ottawa –Vanier riding Association for the Liberal Party
of Ontario. She ran unsuccessfully for provincial legislature in 1994.
she was successful and
became Member of Provincial Parliament for Ottawa Vanier.
She was the 1st woman francophone
MPP in the Ontario Legislature. She was appointed by the
Premier as Liberal Critic for Francophone Affairs. In 2001 she was
removed from the Liberal Party and was forced to sit in the legislature
as an independent after she became convicted of meddling in an accident
case involving her husband. She retired from Politics in 2003.
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
Canada. Senate of Canada. Mabina Jaffer. Online accessed May 2013.
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
Born Kingston, Jamaica 1930. Died April 26, 2003. She believed in
justice for all and worked tirelessly to ease violence and poverty in
and internationally. In 1972 she became
first Canadian Black women to be elected to public office when she was
elected to the
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
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
became Canada’s first ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs
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,
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.
Born Ottawa, Ontario August 11, 1944. Alexa studied at
and the Maritime School of Social work.
1980 she became the first woman to lead a recognized political part in
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.
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
Born Hamilton, Ontario November 27, 1952. Sheila followed her father by
choosing the profession of politics.
was the first sitting member of Canadian Parliament to give birth
and the first woman Deputy Prime Minister.
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.
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.
(née Leichert). Born Melville,
April 22, 1935. She was first elected to the Surry, British Columbia, city
council in 1970. In 1983 she was elected to the
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
Born March 25, 1951. She was the first
Native woman elected to the Canadian Parliament and to become a member of
Born Port Alberni, British Columbia March 10, 1947. She studied in
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
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
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
Alberta November 6, 1939. She studied for a B.A. in Alberta and took her
degree in journalism from
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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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