Heroines

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Heroines - While all of the women on these pages are heroines there are some who just stand out that much more!!!
                                                                       
Abigail Becker

(née Jackson) Born Frontenac County, Upper Canada (Ontario) March 14, 1830 Died March 21, 1905 . Abigail married Jeremiah Becker in 1947 and the couple would have 8 children. The family  settled on Long Point Island, Lake Erie with her trapper husband. On November 24, 1854, She engineered the rescue the master and six men of the crew of the floundering schooner Conductor. The New York Lifesaving Benevolent Association presented her with a gold medal. Queen Victoria sent a congratulatory letter with 30 pounds currency. The Royal Humane Society sent her a Bronze medal. She also received a purse of the large sum of 350 coins  collected from sailors and merchants of Buffalo New York, U.S.A. The monies were used to purchase farmland but alas Jeremiah was not a good farmer and the family saw hard times. Abigail is also known to have saved a boy who had fallen in a well and helped with additional shipwrecks. A few years after the death of her husband on January 1, 1864 she married a second time in to Henry Rohrer in 1869. In all, counting step children from her first marriage and her own children she would raise 17 children.   Mrs. Rohrer moved to Walsingham Centre, Ontario and settled into a new life. Her heroic rescue was written up in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine by John G. Whittier in 1869 and a biography by R. Calvert, The story of Abigail Becker was published in Toronto in 1899.. In 1958 an Ontario Historic Plaque was erected at Rowan, Ontario at the Abigail Becker Conservation Area..  Source: 100 more Canadian Heroines by Merna Forster, Dundurn Press, 2011.

Marie-Madelaine Jarret de Verchères. Born Verchères, Quebec March 3, 1678. Died August 8, 1747. The young Madelaine would become one of Canada's first youth heroes when she, with only a handful of helpers would successfully defend the family fort against attack. Her exploits have been written up in several books including HerStory by Susan Merritt. Her entire life story is recorded in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Volume III). Be sure to check out the true life adventure at your library.
Charlotte de Grassi

Born 1823. Died 1872. Her father Philippe (Fillippe) was a soldier in the British army and in 1831 the family settled in Upper Canada on a farm in what is now Toronto, Ontario. Life was a struggle for the family which lost everything to fire in 1833. In early December 1837 rumblings of rebellion saw the father set out with his daughters, Charlotte and Cornelia to reach Government House. They encountered a group of rebels and Charlotte distracted the men allowing her father to slip past the rebels and make it to his destination. The following days were busy with rebellion d activities Charlotte worked behind enemy lines relaying messages. At one point she was shot and slightly wounded while dodging the rebels. There was a write up about the heroism of Charlotte and her sister in an American newspaper but there is no mention of the girls in Canadian contemporary newspapers. Little is known of this heroine after the Rebellion of 1837 other than she married an American and settled in the United States. De Grassi St. in Toronto is named after the girls’ father and the name is now famous with the TV series about De Grassi schools. Source: 100 more Canadian heroines by Merna Forester (Dundurn Press 1911) : Remembering the Don by Charles Sauriol (Consolidated Amethyst Communications, 1991)

Cornelia de Grassi

Born 1825. Died 1885. Her father Philippe (Fillippe) was a soldier in the British army and in 1831 the family settled in Upper Canada on a farm in what is now Toronto, Ontario. Life was a struggle for the family which lost everything to fire in 1833. In early December 1837 rumblings of rebellion saw the father set out with his daughters, Charlotte and Cornelia to reach Government House. It was to be an eventful couple of days. During the rebellion Cornelia spied on the rebels and relayed important information as to the size and state of the rebel forces to Sir Frances Bond Head the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. At one point she was stopped by the rebels but managed to escape only by dodging bullets, one of which left a hole in her saddle. There was a write up about the heroism of Cornelia and her sister in an American newspaper but there is no mention of the girls in Canadian contemporary newspapers. Little is known of this heroine after the Rebellion of 1837 other than she married an American and settled in the United States. De Grassi St. in Toronto is named after the girls’ father and the name is now famous with the TV series about De Grassi schools. Source: 100 more Canadian heroines by Merna Forester (Dundurn Press 1911) : Remembering the Don by Charles Sauriol (Consolidated Amethyst Communications, 1991)

Mary Dohey Born St Bride's, Newfoundland 1933. A trained Registered Nurse, she chose to have a career as a stewardess Air Canada. On a flight from Calgary Alberta on November 12, 1971, which started out to be routine, Mary would show that she had the 'right stuff'. A hijacker, with a hood over his head threatened the passengers and crew with a gun.  This brave stewardess spoke  gently to the armed man and managed to persuade the hijacker to allow the passengers and some of the crew to depart when the aircraft was diverted to Great Falls, Montana, U.S.A.  Even thought the hijacker was allowing her to leave she was concerned for the remaining crew and remained to do what she could to calm the aggressor until the drama was brought safely to an end when a fellow crew member overpowered the gunman.  On February 16, 1976 she was awarded the Cross of Valour, the first living person to receive Canada's highest award for bravery.
Ibola Szalai Grossman. Born December 10, 1916.  "Ibi" is a self-described “ordinary woman”. She is also a survivor.  She survived the physical and mental horrors of the Hungarian Holocaust. She survived to escape to the west. She survived the obstacles of being a European immigrant Jew. She survived the change to a new and foreign culture and way of life in immigrating to Canada.  She did all of this after her husband, her mother, father, and her sisters died in the death camps.  She survived to raise her son alone in Canada. She survived to write her story in the hopes that the horrors will not happen again.
Ann Harvey Born 1811. Died 1860. Ann Harvey was the daughter of a Newfoundland fisherman who had settled his family near Isle des Mortes in 1822. In 1828 the teen girl insisted on accompanying her father and younger brother in a small boat in an attempt to save people from the sinking brig, the Dispatch. With the help of their dog a safety rope was attached to the ship and some 163 people were saved before the ship went down in the storm. The family shared their small provisions with the survivors. King George VII of England presented Ann with an engraved medal, w00 gold sovereigns and a personally written letter. Two years later Ann married Charles Gillam and settled at Port aux Basques where they had a family of six children. In 1838 she again risked her life in a daring rescue of some 25 passengers of the ship the Rankin.
Anna Ruth Lang Born New Brunswick.  September 9, 1980 a fuel tanker truck hit Anna’s car with a force that took both the truck and the car hurling into the river below the bridge where the accident had happened. Anna struggled out of the car and swam to shore and stripped off her heavy wet clothing and dove into the icy waters and swam back to her submerged car. The oil tanker had exploded and burst into flames on the water. Anna found her four year old son and another woman and dragged them back to shore. Her son was fine after a short time in hospital. Anna herself had been badly burned in the rescue and was also taken to hospital. For her daring rescue Anna Ruth Lang was awarded the Canadian Cross of Valour the highest ranking medal for Canadian Bravery. (The medal was established in 1972)  Source: The Beginners Guide to Canadian Honours by Christopher McCreery
Mary Isabella Macleod. (née Drever) Born Red River, Manitoba October 11, 1852  Died April 15 1933.  During the famous Red River Rebellion (1869-70) a 17-year-old Mary successfully avoided detection and delivered an important dispatch to Colonel Woolsey.  She married James Macleod of the Northwest Mounted Police and frequently accompanied her husband on his tours of duty.
Margaret Arnold McEwan née Arnold. Born 1812, Died Sandwich (Now Windsor) Ontario April 25, 1883. The Granddaughter of Benedict Arnold she married John McEwan (1812-1993) and the couple first settled in Sarnia while John established himself in the Lumber business. The relocated in 1848 to Sandwich (Now part of Windsor, Ontario) where John became clerk of the Court and where he served as sheriff of Essex County from 1856 to 1883. The couple were parents to seven children. In July 1854 a box car arrived in Windsor crowded with sick Norwegian immigrants. The unlucky immigrants had  been delayed and left without water or food for two days in Tilbury township and they had drank from a swampy river. Cholera set in and some 57 men women and children died in Windsor. There was no hospital so John McEwan set up a makeshift facility and his wife came to help. Two children were left as orphans that July 1854 and Margaret took them into her home and raised them until they could care for themselves. In 1855 the railway presented Margaret with an engraved gold watch for kind and Christian benevolence “. Her portrait is on a mural in ‘olde Sandwich” depicting early history of the area. Source: “The Yellow Brick Question” by Elaine Weeks. Times Magazine. Online (Accessed November 2012)
Shannon O'Brien Shannon is from New Brunswick. On December 6, 1979 Sharon’s four year old son was playing in a row boat with a young friend. The boat became cast adrift by a high wind. 150 feet from shore the children panicked and jumped in the chilling waters of the Saint John River.  An older brother screamed for his mothers. Shannon immediately dove into the cold waters and swam out to the children. She was able to save you young son but unfortunately the other child drowned. Shannon O’Brian was awarded the Canadian Star of Courage for her selfless bravery. . Source: The Beginners Guide to Canadian Honours by Christopher McCreery
Eliza Ann Elizabeth Howard Parker She and her husband were staunch supports of the Underground Railroad that secretly spirited runaway slaves from the United States to safety in Canada. More than once she had risked her life transporting escaping slaves. Besieged by slave catchers in Christiana, Pennsylvania she fought along side the men. She was arrested and along with fire other women stood trial for treason when the Christiana Riots were considered as an act of war against the United States. The results of the trial brought about changes in Pennsylvania's laws which prevented the slave catchers from taking runaways in this state and the lives of the rioters were saved. In 1852 she and her husband, William, arrived in Raleigh Township in Canada where they settled and raised their family. Today students of Black History make their way to her graveside to give homage to this valiant heroine of the Christiana Riots.
Mona Parsons.
 
Born February 17,1901. Died 1976. She pursued life on stage until her mother became ill. After taking care of her ill  mother she turned to nursing as a profession. In 1938 she married Willem Leonhardt, a Dutch businessman. During WW ll their home in The Netherlands was used as a refuge by escaping allied airmen. In 1941 they were arrested and imprisoned in separate prisons. Reunited after the liberation, Mona nursed Willem returning to Canada only after his death in 1956. Mona was presented with citations from General Eisenhower and Air Chief Marshal Tedder of the Royal Air Force for helping allied airmen evade enemy capture. 
Abigail Becker Rohrer. (née Jackson) Born Mach 14, 1830. Died 1905.  At eight she married a widower who was a trapper by profession and lived at Long Point Island, Lake Erie. In November 1854 she became a heroine when she was instrumental in saving the lives of the master and the six crew members of the schooner, Conductor, which was wrecked off of Long Point Island.  The story of her heroism was reported in the Atlantic Monthly in 1869 and in 1899 a book entitled The story of Abigail Becker was published.  Since the turn of the 20th century her story seems to have been forgotten by most. 
Kay Snelgrove Born Montreal, Quebec 1921. Died April 25, 2001. Growing up she brushed shoulders with lives from history. Her father's friend, William Lyon Mackenzie was 'Uncle Mac'. Growing up in Montreal, she called her friend Elliott but his full name was Pierre Elliott Trudeau. When the family moved to New Brunswick, the children played base ball with the children of K. S. Irving. As a student at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. she attended dance class with the great grandson of Davey Crocket. It was while she was at Emerson, taking trips home to visit family in New Brunswick that she knew William Stevenson, who would later be uncovered as one of Canada's most successful spies. She helped deliver covert messages from the British war Office that made their way to President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the U.S.A. She had the help of Boston cabbies who accepted the code 'take me to my dorm'. She never knew the information she carried. She had taken an oath of secrecy and she did not even tell her family! And she would keep quiet until Stevenson's best selling book, A man called INTREPID was published in 1976. Later, after Pearl Harbour brought the Americans into the war, her work as a code runner was so vital she was protected by the RCMP. Decades later she would take therapy to overcome the recurring nightmares of the job. After World War ll she settled down to be Mrs. Mom and working as a receptionist at the Brampton Daily Times. When she retired in 1986 she was head of Classified Advertisements. According to her children, she never considered herself a heroine, but rather she did her 'duty'. She never did write her memoirs, she had been trained to keep secrets after all.
Maria Wait

Born Maria Smith Upper Canada ca 1820. Died 1848. Maria married Benjamin ( sometimes referred to a Bernard in sources) in October 1936. Benjamin worked at several occupations but was not necessarily successful as any of his jobs. The couple had a daughter, Augusta, born in the summer of 1838. Unfortunately, Benjamin had participated in the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion and in Augusta of 1838 he was sentenced to hang. Maria travelled over 900 kilometers and attempted to meet with Governor General, Lord Durham. When she was stalled by office staff she simply said she would sit in the office until she did see him. Durham gave in and provided her a letter to stop the execution. The Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada refused to take quick action and Marie threatened to go back to Durham. The final execution was stopped with only one half hour to spare!! Benjamin was sent to Tasmania, Van Diemen’s Land for life. Marie did not give up hope and travelled to England where working as a companion to a old lady she  applied to see and plead with various British officials and even with Queen Victoria. Returning home unsuccessful she continued to lobby in Canada for her husbands return. Benjamin escaped from prison in 1841 and two years later the family was reunited in New York State across the boarder from Canada. Marie died a short time later giving birth to twins. Source Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online edition.  Under Benjamin Wait.  (Accessed June 2006)

   
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