While all of the women on these pages are
heroines there are some who just stand out that much more!!!
(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.
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
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.
more Canadian heroines by Merna Forester (Dundurn Press 1911) :
Remembering the Don by Charles Sauriol (Consolidated Amethyst
Cornelia de Grassi
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.
more Canadian heroines by Merna Forester (Dundurn Press 1911) :
Remembering the Don by Charles Sauriol (Consolidated Amethyst
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.
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.
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
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
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
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)