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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.
Helen Mary 'Maria' Grant
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
(née Dodgson) Born
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
Born Wingham, Ontario October 15, 1874. Died
July 17, 1931.
She graduated in mathematics from the
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.
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
Agnes Campbell Macphail. Born
Grey Co., Ontario
March 24, 1890.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Herstory: The Canadian Women’s Calendar 2012.
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
, Michael Lillian Freiman
a Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. March 1, 2009
Jewish Women’s Archive Accessed August 2011. ; Knowles, Valerie
|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
Source: Japanese Canadian Timeline online. (Accessed June 2012)
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
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.
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
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
Born July 14, 1918 Toronto,
December 18, 1993.
She was the 1st woman to hold the top
position in a Canadian
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
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.
Chinese Canadians: Voices from a community by Evelyn Huong with
Lawrence Jeffery. (Vancouver: Douglas McIntyre, ;
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
degrees and the Order of Canada. In 2005 she was appointed to the Senate
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
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.
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
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
Source: Brown, Michael, “Sandra Brown”, Jewish Women: a Comprehensive
Historical Encyclopedia. 1 march 2009. Jewish Women’s Archives
Accessed August 2011
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.
Muriel Stanley Venne.
Born 1935. In 1973 she became a member of the Alberta Human Rights
Commission. She also served on numerous boards including the National
Aboriginal Achievement Foundation and was a lifetime member of the
Canadian Native Friendship Centres. In 1996 she spearheaded the
production of a publication on Aboriginal human rights and wrote a
booklet aimed at Aboriginal youth. In 1998, the 25th
anniversary Award from the Alberta Human Rights Commission was presented
to her. She has also earned the Bowden Native Brotherhood Award., The
Canadian Merit Award and in 2002 she received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
In 2004 she earned the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and a
lifetime Achievement Award from the YWCA. She founded the Institute for
the Advancement of Aboriginal Women. She also established the Social
Justice Award to honour those who have done outstanding work for
Aboriginal women. In 2005 she received the Governor General’s Award in
Commemoration of the Persons Case and was inducted into the Order of
Canada. In 2007 the Toronto Globe and Mail recognized her as a Woman of
Vision and in September 2008 she was elected as Vice-President of the
Metis Nation. On
October 25, 2017 she became the 1st Aboriginal woman to hve
an Alberta Provincial government building, a multi –purpose government
centre in Edmonton named in her honour.
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