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Famous Canadian Women

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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.

Scientists, Engineers and Astronauts    

Harriet Brooks. Born Exeter, Ontario January 1, 1876. Died January 1, 1933. She graduated from McGill University in 1888 and began research with the renowned Dr. Ernest Rutherford as Canada’s first woman nuclear physicist. In 1901 she was the first woman to study at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University in England. After she earned her Masters degree she worked for a short period of time in the Laboratory of Dr. Marie Curie. She returned to Canada to resume her work with Dr. Rutherford until 1907 when she married Frank Pitcher. Since protocol of the day was for women not to work once they were married, Harriet was forced to give up her work as a physicist. She turned her energies to raising her three children and remained active in the Federation of University women.


Helen Battles Hogg-Priestley.  (née Sawyer) Born Lowell, Massachusetts U.S.A. August 1, 1905. Died January 28, 1993.  An astronomer who joined the teaching staff of the University of Toronto in 1936, she was nominated professor emeritus in 1976.  A world expert who receive numerous honours including being a Companion in the Order of Canada, she took her profession to radio and TV in a clear and understandable manner for all listeners.  She wrote a book, “The Stars Belong to Everyone”.  For her efforts to bring information to the public she was the first person to win the Klumpke-Roberts Award and she is also the only Canadian woman to have a minor planet (#2917) named after her!


Alice Evelyn Wilson.  Born Coburg, Ontario August 26, 1881. Died April 15, 1964. A paleontologist who worked at the Geological Survey of Canada, where she described fossils in papers and books.  She lectured and traveled to bring geology to the public, especially children. In 1937 she was the first woman to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.


Elizabeth Muriel Gregory  (Elsie) MacGill.  Born Vancouver, British Columbia 1905. Died November 4, 1980. She became Canada’s first woman graduate to hold a degree in electrical engineering.  She also held a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. During WW II her primary responsibility was the production of the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft. Her staff of 4,500 people produced more than 2000 aircraft In 1937 she was the first woman to be admitted corporate membership in the Engineering Institute of Canada.  She is a member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. She is considered the first woman to be a designer of airplanes.


Margaret Newton. Born Montreal, Quebec April 20, 1887. Died April 6, 1971. During her early days of university study Margaret took an interest in diseases that related to Canada stable agricultural product, wheat. She was one of the first women in Canada to earn a degree in agriculture and she was the first Canadian woman to earn a PhD in agricultural sciences. Her lifetime work in wheat rust was well respected. In 1922 she was invited to Russia to discuss her work. She was the second woman to become a “Fellow” in the Royal Society of Canada. In 1942 she became the first woman recipient of the Flavelle Medal for meritorious achievement in biological science. The list of winners of this award that is recorded online contains no other winners who are women! The University of Victoria named one of its residences “Margaret Newton” Hall.  After more than 25 years exposure from her research she was forced to retire because of ill health.


Helen Irene Battle.  Born London, Ontario August 31, 1903. Died June 17, 1994.One of the first women to enter the male dominated field of zoology. She was chosen on of the outstanding women of Science by the National Museum of Natural Science.

Veena Rowat. Born India. She moved to Ottawa, Ontario in 1968. She is the first Canadian  woman PhD graduate in electrical engineering and the only woman in her 1973 graduating class at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario. In 1974 she joined the Canada Department of Communications (forerunner of Industry Canada) . Her 36 year public service career has been studded with recognition. She has received the Public Service Award of Excellence in 2011 for her contribution to telecommunications and to women in leadership. 1n 2003 she received the Queen Elizabeth ll Golden Jubilee Award as well as the Excellence in Leadership Award from Industry Canada. 2004 saw her as Canadian Woman of the Year in Communications for the Canadian Women In Communications. In 2005 she was included in too listing of Canada’s most Powerful Women as expressed by Canada’s Executive Women’s Network. That same year she was Professional Woman of the Year for the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce. In 2008 she won the Sara Kirke Award recognizing her as Canada’s leading woman high Tech Entrepreneur from the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance. In 2004 she was the first woman president of the Communications Research Centre which is an internationally-renowned agency of Industry Canada. She retained this position until her retirement in June 2011.  Always a mentor for women in the 1990’s she worked with groups concerned with violence against women and with high school girls sports teams. She is also a volunteer mentor with the Women’s Executive Network. Source: Canadian Women in Technology http://www.catawit.ca/mission_vision/ambassadorscircle... accessed June 2011; Women in Ottawa: Mentors and milestone http://womeninorttawa.blogspot.com accessed June 2011. 

Roberta Lynn Bondar. Born Sault Ste Marie, Ontario December 4, 1945. Canada’s first woman astronaut had flair. She took her favourite food, Girl Guide cookies, into space with her in 1992.  She brought from space a real sense of just how delicate our small blue planet really is and is now using her photography to help show and save our earth’s environment.  She has several university degrees. As Chancellor of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario she continues to be an inspiration to Canadian youth.  October 2011 she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.  Check out how many schools she went to in the “Canadian Who’s Who” at your library. Check out Dr. Bondar's web page: http://www.robertabondar.ca/

Julie Payette.  Born Montreal, Quebec October 21, 1963.  Did you know that this Canadian astronaut plays piano and has sung with the Montreal symphonic Orchestra Chamber Choir?  She is active in various community activities and has an ongoing commitment to volunteer work. She attended school at the United World International College of the Atlantic, located in South Wales, United Kingdom. She studied for her bachelor of engineering at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec and took her Masters at the University of Toronto, 1990. This exceptional engineer was chosen as an astronaut in June 1992. From May 27 to June 6, 1999 she was a member of the STS 96 space mission and flew on the space shuttle Discovery. She is the first Canadian to visit and work on board the international space station.  Read her Biography from the Canadian Space Agency at : http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/payette.html

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