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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.

Social Activists   
1800's
Helen Mary 'Maria' Grant née Smith Born 1843, Maitland , Nova Scotia. Died 1907, Victoria, British Columbia. While she attended school and trained as a teacher she did not teach long. In those days married women could not be teachers and she left teaching Captain William Grant in 1873. She was not the type of wife that stayed at home, rather she sailed the world with her husband coming on shore only to give birth to her children. In 1886 the family settled in British Columbia. In 1884 women became eligible to vote for school board members if there were mothers. In 1889 women were even allowed to run for school board positions. In March 1895 Marie was elected as the 1st school board trustee, a position she held for 6 years. Maria was also active in the Women’s Temperance Union and helped founding the Victoria Local Council of women in 1894. Such local women’s groups worked towards women’s suffrage.  In 1901 she was presented to the Duke of York (later King George V ) as the 1st and only women school trustee in Canada. Sadly Marie did not live to see gain the right to vote which did not come to British Columbia until 1917. In 1987 the Victoria Council of Women presented a plaque to the provincial legislature honouring Maria Grant and Cecilia Spofford, who had both worked over 30 years for women’s suffrage. Sources: Merna Foster, 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn Press, 2004) ; Victoria Council of Women, Victoria.bc.ca/community/vcw/ online (accessed May 2015)
 
Maria Heathfield Pollard-Grant. née Pollard Born September 15, 1854 Quebec City, Lower Canada (Quebec). Died March 30, 1937 Victoria, British Columbia. In 1871 Maria’s family relocated to Victoria, British Columbia where her Methodist minister father was offered a position. July 30, 1874 she married Gordon Fraser/Frazar Munro Grant (   -1908). The couple had 7 children who survived infancy. Maria and her mother were founding members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of British Columbia and both would serve on the executive. In 1885 Maria together with other WCTU members traveled the province with a petition for women’s voting rights and took the 1st petition for female suffrage to the provincial legislature. She was also the key organizer of the Local Council of Women in Victoria in 1894. In January 1895 this group of determined women got the provincial government to allow women to serve as school trustees. In March 1895 she becomes the 1st woman to be a school trustee in British Columbia and the 1st woman to be elected to a municipal position in the province. She was elected secretary to the Nation Prohibition Federation of Temperance Societies of Canada. In 1900 she became President of the Provincial WCTU. In 1904 she co-supervised construction of a Refuge Home for unwed mothers. In 1910 she was the 1st President of Victoria’s Political Equity League  (PEL) and helped form the British Columbia PEL the following year. She also helped to create a local Day nursery. In 1904 she helped establish the Children’s Aid Society of Victoria where she became an employee. In 1918 she formed the Women’s Independent Political Association to support female candidates in civic elections. Source: DCB.
 
Eva Finkelstein Abremovich nee Finkelstein . Born June 10,1877, Radishevka, Volhynia Province, Russia. Died  December 18, 1953, Sarnia, Ontario .  She arrived in Canada in 1883 with her mother and sister to join their father who had immigrated to Winnipeg the year before.  She attended Carlton and Victoria schools then, in 1897 she graduated from Manitoba College, the first Jewish person to do so. In 1902 she married Manuel Hirsch Abremovich (1875-1958), an electrical engineer, in Winnipeg. They resided in New York City for a few years before returning to Winnipeg where she was a member of the University Women’s Club and the Women’s Canadian Club. During each of the world wars, she worked for the Red Cross. In 1948, she and her husband retired Vancouver, British Columbia. Source: Manitoba Historical Society. Memorable Manitobans . by Gordon Goldsborough  online. (accessed December 2011)  : City woman dies on visit to Sarnia” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 December 1953.
 
1910's

Lady Mary Pellatt. (née Dodgson) Born Toronto, Ontario 1858. The first Commissioner of the Girl Guides of Canada, Lady Pellatt lived in a Castle! Lady Mary often invited Girl Guides to have rallies at Casa Loma in Toronto. She was warranted as Commissioner of the Dominion of Canada Girl Guides on July 24, 1912. When she was to ill to attend events she enjoyed watching the girls from her bedroom window. When Lady Pellatt died in April 1924 she was buried in her Girl Guide uniform and the Girl Guides formed a Guard of Honour at the funeral service. Connect to the Girl Guide Fact Sheet at http://www.girlguides.ca/media/pdfs/14-3/14.3.1.8.pdf

 
1920's

Annie Caroline Macdonald. Born Wingham, Ontario October 15, 1874. Died July 17, 1931. She graduated in mathematics from the University of Toronto in 1901. She would turn to on of the opening professions for respectable young ladies of the day. She became one of the first professional secretaries of the Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA). By 1904 she was on her way to Japan to establish the YWCA in that country.  She became immersed in her new job and new home. She became fluent in the Japanese language and became a staunch advocate of penal reform in Japan. Among other things she established a settlement house in the city of Tokyo to provide support services for families of prison inmates, ex-prisoners and juvenile delinquents (dare we call it Macdonald House?) In 1924 her social work was recognized by the Emperor of Japan. In 1925 she returned to Canada and was the 1st woman to receive an LLD (Doctor of Law) from the University of Toronto.

 
Mary Irene Parlby née Marryat. Born London, England January 9 , 1868. Died July 12, 1965.  Irene came to Canada in 1896 and shortly after met and married Walter Parlby. The couple would have one son. In 1916- 1919 she was elected president of the United Farm Women of Alberta and destined to become actively involved in the agrarian movement. In 1921 she was elected to the Alberta government as member for Lacombe. She was a Minister without Portfolio with the responsibility for issues surrounding women and children. However she had no budget to go with her mandate. Ahead of her time perhaps in 1925 she introduced a Community of Property Bill that served the legal recognition of women’s domestic work. It failed to pass. She was a popular member of the provincial legislature with the electorate who put her back in office in 1926 and again in 1930-35. She was a member of the Canadian delegation to the organization of the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations. As a member of the Famous Five women who championed the famous Persons Case to have women declared “person” in a legal sense in 1927 she has left a lasting legacy to the women of Canada. The Famous Five are pictured on the Back of the Canadian fifty dollar bill. Suggested resources: Irene Marryat Parlby – Celebrating Women’s Achievements/ Women in Canadian Legislatures. Library and Archives Canada. On Line; Famous 5  Foundation www.famous5.ca.
 

Agnes Campbell Macphail.  Born Preston Tsp., Grey Co., 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 1st woman to sit in the House of Commons as a Member of the Canadian Parliament. The 1st woman to inspect Kingston Penitentiary, which left her with a lifelong advocate for better conditions of women in prison. She was the founder of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada which even today works to give help to women in need.

 
Grace Bagnato. Born 1891.  Died 1950. Born in the United States her Italian immigrant family moved to Toronto Canada when Grace was about 5 or 6 years old. It was in this city in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s that Grace would become known to many immigrant Canadians who needed help. She learned their languages in order to help them and to communicate with them. She went to court with them to help them get the best justice their new home could offer. She was the first woman to be appointed as court interpreter. During World War II when Canadians who had immigrated to Canada were all suspect simply because they were aliens, Grace worked hardest making sure their needs were understood. She was a mother of 13 children who worked hard for all the immigrants of Ward area in Toronto. Grace St. is a part of the acknowledged Italian district of Toronto. Learn more about Grace Bagnato in the video recording “An Act of Grace” (A scattering of seeds series) White Pine Pictures. You can borrow it from your own library or through interlibrary loan.
 
Marguerite Michaud Born Bauctouche, New Brunswick 1903. Died 1982. At the are of 13 she received the Lieutenant’s Governor Medal in recognition of her outstanding academic abilities. She studied at the New Brunswick Teachers College and wit a Carnegie Scholarship she attended St Francis Xavier University graduating with distinction in 1923. She was the 1st Acadian woman to receive a university degree. Continuing her studies she obtained a diploma en française from the Sorbonne in France and also did a graduate studies at Columbia University in New York City and Université de Montréal where she earned her PhD in history. She was one of three Canadians to attend the United Nations Conference on Teaching Human Rights in Schools. She was the founder of the 1st Acadian parent teacher association and she helped organize the Association des enseignants francophones du Nouveau Brunswick in 1961. Marguerite was the 1st woman vice-principal at the provincial normal school working to improve opportunities for francophones. She was also a respected volunteer working as vice president of the  New Brunswick UNICEF and the Beaverbrook Foundation. She received the order of Canada, the Medaille de l’ Alliance Française, and  the Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Medal. Several schools in Acadian area of New Brunswick are named in her honour. Source: Herstory: The Canadian Women’s Calendar 2012.
 
1930's
Lillian Freiman Née Bilsky Born Mattawa, Ontario 1885. Died 1940 Ottawa, Ontario .  She was the daughter of one of the founding Jewish families in Ottawa. At 18 she married Archibald Jacob Freiman (1880-1944). He would found Freiman’s Department Store in Ottawa. The couple had 3 children and adopted a Ukrainian war Orphan named Gladys Rozovsky.  Lillian would among her numerous activities head the Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, the women’s Zionist Organization from 1919 though 1940. The Red Cross Sewing Circle which she started in her home as a war effort became a Disraeli Chapter of the Daughters of the Empire. She would lead Ottawa’s efforts to battle the influenza epidemic in 1918. She served on the executive of the Ottawa Welfare Bureau and helps with the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club, the Institute Jeanne d’Arc for Catholic girls, the Protestant Infants Home and many more. In 1921 she led the campaign to bring 150 Jewish war orphans from the Ukraine to settle in good Canadian homes. She was granted honourary membership in the Canadian Legion veteran’s organization, the first woman to be so honoured. In 1934 she became the first Canadian Jew to be awarded the Order of the British Empire. Source: Brown , Michael Lillian Freiman Jewish women: a Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. March 1, 2009 Jewish Women’s Archive Accessed August 2011. ; Knowles, Valerie Capital Lives.
 
Hide H. Shimizu Hide was the 1st Japanese Canadian to teach in a public School. World War ll was a dark period of Canadian history when Canadians of Japanese descent were placed in detention camps. Hide was one of the detainees. Living in the camps, Hide organized classes for the children of the camps to ensure they received an education. Later as a supervisor of trencher training she assisted in assuring proper social adjustment of Japanese evacuees in the Toronto area. On June 21, 1982, Hide was awarded the Order of Canada for her dedication to teaching and helping others. Source: Japanese Canadian Timeline online. (Accessed June 2012)
 
1940's
Eileen Tallman Sufrin. Born 1913, Montreal, Quebec. Died 1999, White Rock, British Columbia. She relocated with her family to Toronto where she was the leading all-around student in her Vaugh Road Collegiate. After high school she went looking for work and was dismayed by the working conditions she observed. Women worked not only for lower wages then me but there was less opportunities for women to obtain jobs as well. She joined with other unemployed youth the Canadian Commonwealth Youth Movement (CCYM). She learned to speak on street corners and to organize and motivate people. She also liked to tell stories how she won a contest as Canada’s fastest typist and how she won contests for dancing the Tango.  In 1941 she led the 1st strike of bank employees in Montreal. Later in the 1940’s she attempted to unionize employees of the Eaton’s Department stores in Toronto. Though her determination and perseverance she was able to organize 9,000 of the 30,000 Eaton’s workers between 1948 and 1952. Though her efforts did not gain a fully unionized Eaton’s work place her work forced Eaton’s administration to take measures to stop the unwanted unionization and salaries were increased, pensions provided and welfare packages were provided to staff. Eileen published her story of the attempted unionization leaving a detailed account of her work. Eileen moved about and organized wherever she went. In the early 1960’s she was working in a finance office of the government of Saskatchewan. She met and married in 1962 Bert Sufrin a fellow CCF worker. The couple moved to Ottawa in 1964 where Eileen worked with the Women’s Bureau of the Canadian Department of Labour. In 1972 the couple moved to White Rock, British Columbia for retirement. However Eileen still campaigned for the New Democratic Party and founded the local Choice of Dying Society. In 1979 Eileen was one of 7 women who were awarded the Governor’s General Award for the 50th Anniversary of the Persons Case. In 2016 Canada’s History magazine listed Eileen as one of 30 women in Canada’s Great Women. Source: Anne Farrell, Eileen Tallman Sufrin. July 13, 2001, Section15.ca Accessed February 2016
 
 
Evelyn Cudmore née MacEwan. Born MacEwen’s Mills Bristol, Prince Edward Island. Died May 25, 1992.  She was born a member of the fourth generation Scottish Immigrant of the Island. She attended Prince of Wales College before marring Harry. W. Cudmore. They had one son, Paul. As a youth she helped with the Canadian Girls in Training and later she served in various capacities with the Girl Guides of Canada. She joined the service of the Red Cross on June 2, 1942 and would remain loyal and active for 70 years! She served with the United Way and joined the local Zonta group and became involved the Zonta International. She was responsible in 1945 for organizing the 1st Red Cross Water Safety Course in Canada that certified Instructors. In 1946 she organized First Aid services throughout PEI. She introduced radio and later television training for water safety. She would host the safety Radio programs for 25 years. Her life was devoted to physical education, health and recreation. The Girl Guides of Canada presented her with life membership and the Beaver Award. She was provided with the Distinguished Service Award from the United Way of Canada. She also received the 1967 Confederation Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal in 1977.  In 1983 she became a member of the Order of Canada. The University of Prince Edward Island offers annually the Evelyn M. Cudmore Memorial Scholarship. Source: Outstanding women of Prince Edward Island Compiled by the Zonta Club of Charlottetown, 1981.
 
1950's
Margaret Alberta Phillips. Born April 12, 1931. Died November 4, 2015, Thunder Bay, Ontario. In 1957 Margaret was the 1st woman in Canada to be hired as an arena manager. She worked 3 years in Iroquois Falls, Ontario. From 1960-1967 she was Recreational Director in Kemora, Ontario. In 1965 she became the 1st woman president of the Society of Municipal Recreation of Ontario. In 1971 for ten years she was Executive Director of Lakehead Social Planning Council dealing with regional day care services, co-op housing and regional transit. She helped found the Thunder Bay Women’s Center. 1982-1992 she was a member of the Northern Women’s Journal Collective. In 1984 she co-founded with Anna McColl the Northern Woman’s Bookstore. From the mid 1980’s through to 1997 she worked with Inner Pares, a non-government organization working on social justice. She was also a Board member of the Canadian Council on Social Development and the Ontario Welfare Council.
 
 
1970's

Grace Hartman.  Born July 14, 1918 Toronto, Ontario. Died December 18, 1993. She was the 1st woman to hold the top position in a Canadian Union. In 1975 she was elected to the national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). She was elected as Vice President as early as 1963 when this union was firs formed from the merger of two previous unions.

 
Jean Bessie Lumb née Wong. Born 1919 Nanaimo, British Columbia. Died July 18, 2002, Toronto, Ontario. The daughter of a Chinese coal miner Jean grew up not understanding why Chinese people and women in general were not accepted! At 16 in 1935 she moved to Toronto to work for her sister. The next year she opened a fruit store which gave he funds to bring the rest of her family to Toronto. In April 1939 she married. Doyle Jennings Lumb. She and her husband raised 6 children while working in their Toronto fruit store. In 1959 they opened the Kwong Chow Restaurant. Jean became a community lobbyist in order to effect changes in immigration. From 1923 until 1947 federal regulations kept families in China from joining their husbands and fathers who were in Canada. In 1940 she was president of the Women’s Association in the Chinese Community where she lobbied to changes to reunite Chinese families in Canada. In 1957 when Ellen Fairclough was Minister of Immigration , Jean was a force behind sending a group to Ottawa to fight for family re-unification for immigrants. She was also a central force in the preservation of Toronto Chinatown. In the 1960’s she headed the “Save Chinatown Committee which was formed to save the area from developers.  She formed and worked with the Chinese Dance troop with her work recognized when she was presented to Queen Elizabeth. In 1976 she became the 1st Chinese Canadian to become a member of the Order of Canada. Source: Chinese Canadians: Voices from a community by Evelyn Huong with Lawrence Jeffery. (Vancouver: Douglas McIntyre, ; www.wongswhowho.com. 1992)
 
Marion Ironquil Meadmore. Born 1936 Peepeekisis First Nation Reserve, Saskatchewan. Like many of her generation she was forced to leave home and attend residential School. In 1954 she married Ronald Hector Meadmore (1933-2013). She attended the University of Manitoba and in 1977 she became the 1st indigenous woman lawyer in Canada. She is the founder of several aboriginal organizations including the Canadian Indian Lawyer Association (Now Indigenous Bar Association), National Indian Brotherhood, the Indian and Métis Friendship Center, the Kinew Housing, and the National Indigenous Council of Elders (NICE). In 1985 She was inducted into the Order of Canada. Since 2011 she has been actively involved on the National Council of Indigenous Elders for the Creation of Wealth Forum. In 2010 she was honoured at the Keeping the Fires Burning aboriginal awards celebrating female leaders for preserving First Nations culture and serving as role models for younger generations.  In 2015 the University of Manitoba presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Source: Don Marks, “What is the Use in Spending so Much Time Studying Failure’ CBC.ca May 14, 2015; Matt Preprost, “Gala recognizes accomplishments”.  Winnipeg Free Press June 18, 2010 Page A13.
 

Nadine Hunt. Born Kingston, Ontario. Nadine attended the Labour College of Canada and graduated in 1971.  She went on to work on the executive of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.  In 1978 she was the 1st woman to lead a labour federation in Canada when she was elected president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. She held this post until 1988.   She helped establish the Labour Studies Program at the University of Saskatchewan. She has served as a representative at the International Labour Organization where she served on a committee to establish international standards for the treatment of workers with family responsibilities.  The University of Saskatchewan has a memorial scholarship named in her honour.

 
Mary Wong. Born In Hamilton, Ontario this teacher and restaurateur also served as an interpreter of the Chinese language in the city courts. Her interest in politics led to a position on the Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism.   In 1977 Mary Wong became the 1st Canadian of Chinese origin to be appointed a Citizenship Court Judge, a position she held until retirement in 1985. Her personal motto is “I believe what you put into life, you get out.”
 
Nancy Ruth. January 6, 1942. Nancy Ruth is Canada's 1st feminist philanthropist. With less that 5% of funding from private foundations and corporations going to women and girls her philosophy remains: "If women don't give to women and girls, who will?" As an activist, Nancy Ruth was part of the 1981 push for the inclusion of the equity clauses (15 & 28) in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She is a founding mother of Canada's largest women's history website www.coolwomen.ca, of The Womens' Legal Education and Action Fund - LEAF/FARJ. (Be sure check out the teen pages at the site www.LEAF.ca) and of the Canadian Women's Foundation/Foundation des Femmes Canadiennes, www.women.org who founded among other things the "White Ribbon Campaign". Nancy Ruth holds 3 honourary degrees and the Order of Canada. In 2005 she was appointed to the Senate of Canada.
 

Sue Johanson. A mother, grandmother and by training a nurse, Sue is extremely concerned about unplanned pregnancies, babies having babies, sexually transmitted disease and kids being used and abused. In 1970 she opened in Don Mills Birth Control Clinic, the 1st such clinic in a High school in North America. She had no idea that her forthright talk approach about sex would lead to the “Sunday Night Sex Show” on W television! In 2004 she entered the American market on Oxygen Network with 4 million viewers. She is a member of the Order of Canada. In March 2004 the National Post newspaper named her one of Canada’s most influential women.

 

1980's

 

 

1990's

Sandra Brown née Tanzman Born 1941 Saint John, New Brunswick. In 1965 she earned her BSc in pharmacology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the next two years she studied and earned her Masters in Social Work from McGill University, Montreal and in 1963 she married Melvin Brown. The couple have three daughters. She started her working career with the Family Services Association of Toronto. As a volunteer she has served as a “foot soldier”, board member and executive member for numerous associations including: The United Way, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Kidney Foundation, The Salvation Army, the Senior Care for the Jewish Elderly, the Heart Fund, the United Jewish Appeal, the Forest Hill Nursery School, the National council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Volunteer Services, the National Educational Conferences of. the Canadian Zionist Federation, the Toronto Board of Jewish Education, the Educational Planning and Allocations Committee of Toronto Jewish Congress…She was the 1st woman to be appointed President of the Jewish Federation of Toronto from 1995-1996. There is no doubt why she was selected in 1991 and again in 1995 by the Ontario Government to be presented with the Volunteer Service Award. Source: Brown, Michael, “Sandra Brown”, Jewish Women: a Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 march 2009. Jewish Women’s Archives Accessed August 2011 http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/brown-sandra.

 
Lillian McGregor Born Birch Island (Whitefish River First Nations), Ontario 1924. Died Newmarket, Ontario April 20, 2012. She and her cousin Florence were the first native children to graduate grade 8 on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. She moved to Toronto at 15 to avoid a possible arranged marriage. She became a nanny with the condition from her employer that she continue her education. She finished high school and attended nursing college. During WW ll she worked at a munitions plant in eastern Toronto and packed parachutes. In 1949 she worked for the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) and at a west end nursing home until her retirement in 1990. She raised three sons. She was a founding member of the Native Canadian Centre and a national leader in the Friendship Centres. She was on the board of the Native child an And Family Services Nishnawbe Homes, the original Advisory Council and Ontario’s Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy. In 1994 she became the 1st Elder in residence at the University of Toronto and lectured on the seven sacred teachings of the elders: wisdom, courage, truth, honesty, love, humility and respect. She was the 1st native woman awarded an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Toronto. In 1996 the university established a scholarship in her name. She received the City of Toronto’s Civic Award and the outstanding achievement Award from the province as well as receiving the Order of Ontario. She was also instrumental in founding the Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Institute. She had tea with the Queen, offered a first nations prayer to open the provincial legislature and travelled to Russia with a group representing Toronto’s bid for the Olympics. She carried the 2010 Olympic torch through part of Toronto. Source: “She helped natives survive the city.” By Noreen Shanahan. The Globe and Mail May 22, 2012. Suggested by June Coxon, Ottawa, Ontario.
 

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