Copyright © 2004-2020 Dawn E. Monroe. All rights reserved.
The names appearing 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 3000
Canadian Women of Achievement.
March 16, 1909,Hamilton, Ontario. Died March 31, 1980. After graduation
in Medicine she interned at the Toronto General Hospital and Women’s
College Hospital. Wanting to serve in World War ll in August 1941
she became the second woman and 1st
woman doctor to in enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Women’s
Division. She held the position of Squadron Leader of the
Women’s Division, RCAF, and was the 1st woman to be granted a
commission in the Medical Branch of any Canadian Armed Forces. May 28,
1943 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in
recognition of her service. In 1950 she was appointed Chief of Medicine
at the Women’s College Hospital. 1956 through to 1973 she taught at the
University of Toronto where she became Professor in the Faculty of
Medicine. In 1973 she was inducted into the Order of Canada.
The Indomitable Lady Doctors by Carlotta Hacker (Toronto: Clarke,
Irwin & Co Ltd, 1974) ; Order of Canada,
www.gg.ca (Accessed February 2014)
1918, Regina , Saskatchewan. Died 1991. The family moved to Ontario
where Fern grew up watching the ships on the great lakes. She wanted to
become a sailor. She attended school in Toronto and learned to transmit
messages on the spark-gap radio. She wanted to serve in the World War ll
but the Canadian government was not predisposed to accept women in the
On June 13, 1941 she became the first Canadian woman to serve in the
Merchant Marines. She worked on
a Norwigian Merchant Navy vessel the Mosdale as a wireless radio
operator. Fern would make 78 of the 98 crossings made by the ship In 1942 she married Captain Gerner Sunde of the Mosdale. . The
couple would have two daughters. In 1942 the king Haakon of Norway
awarded Fern the Norwegian War medal for her wartime service as chief
wireless officer, She was the 1st woman to receive this medal. . Fern
left the ship shortly after the war ended and settled in Norway In 1988
the city of Farsund gave Fern a medal for the distinction she brought
Source: !00 more Canadian Heroines by Merna Forster (Dundurn
Muskeg Lake Reserve, Saskatchewan. Died March 2011. At 5, Mary was taken
away from her family to attend and Indian Residential School. Here she
received extra tutoring in laundry, cooking and sewing from one of the
teaching nuns. In 1942 may became the 1st
aboriginal woman in the Canadian Army when she enlisted in the Canadian
Womens Army Corp. She worked as a cook and in the laundry
services while stationed in Aldershot, England. There was a famous
photograph taken of Mary supposedly receiving a blessing from her chief.
In fact, 70 years later, the truth came out that the photo had been
staged with “the Chief” wearing a makeshift costume. In reality the two,
Mary and “The Chief” had never met previous to the photo. Real or not
the photo was used to represent aboriginals in the Canadian Armed Forces
during World War ll. Mary was not the only member of her family to
enlist, in total ten Greyeyes family members, including 4 woman served
during World War ll. After the war Mary returned to Canada and married
Alexander “Bud” Reid and the couple raised two children in Victoria and
later in Vancouver. Mary worked in a restaurant and later she was an
Sources: Women’s History Month: Women in Canadian Military Forces: A
proud Legacy. Status of Women Canada. October 2011. Online (Accessed
Macneill (MacNeill) Born June 4,
1908, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Died August 18,1990. Isabel attended Halifax
Ladies College, Mount Saint Vincent Academy followed by attending the
Nova Scotia College of Art and graduating in 1928. She wanted a career
in scenic design but soon found herself working as a counselor. In 1942
she joined the Wrens and in March 1943 she was promoted to 1st
Officer. Two months later in June 1943
she became commanding officer of HMCS Conestoga, the 1st
woman in the British Commonwealth to hold a command. In
June1944 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire in recognition
of her training Canadian Wrens. In April 1945 she was promoted to the
rank of Commander. After World War 11 in 1946 she was employed by the
Ontario Government as Director of Special Services for Wayward Girls and
she headed the Training School for Delinquents in Coburg and then in
Galt. She believed that the girls should achieve self confidence to
re-enter successfully life in society. In 1954 she returned to duty in
the Canadian Navy to help establish a small permanent force of Wrens.
She retired from the Canadian Navy in June. In
1960 she became the 1st woman prison warden when she was
appointed to head the Prison for Women (P4W), Kingston, Ontario.
Here, as she had done for the Girls Training School she encouraged
development of the women to encourage change. When her beliefs became
contrary to prison regulations in 1966 she resigned her post. She
became a life member of the Elizabeth Fry Society and continued to
promote prison reform. . She was also a charter member of Veterans
Against Nuclear Arms. She was a recipient of the Queen’s Coronation
Medal in 1953 and in 1971 she was inducted into the Order of Canada.
Source: Herstory 2006: The
Canadian Women’s Calendar. Coteau Books, 2005) ; Macneill, Isabel
1908-1990. Fonds. Memory Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Public Archives.
Online (Accessed October 2014)
Born Port Arthur
(Thunder Bay), Ontario March 22, 1884. Died March 5, 1968. A nurse who
served in both world wars. She was a builder of the Victoria Order of
Nurses, helping it to become a nationwide organization and was its chief
superintendent from 1923-1947. She was granted leave from the VON to serve
as matron in chief in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp from 1941 till
1955. In 1941 she laid the foundations for the establishment of the
Canadian Women’s Army Corps.
In 1944 she
was the first woman to become a colonel in the Canadian Army.
Nettie Paterson Reitsma
(née Paterson) Born December
12, 1927, Vancouver, British Columbia. Died April 30, 2000 Delta,
British Columbia. In 1949, while working at the front desk of the Hotel
Vancouver, Doreen was inspired by meeting Eleanor Roosevelt, the former
1st Lady of the United States. Doreen took steps to make her
dream of serving in the Canadian Military come true in 1951. She made
history as the 1st to enlist in the new
Women's Division of the Royal Canadian Navy. She began training October
2, 1951 as an elite radio intelligence operator for the
top-secret wireless communications base in Cloverdale, New Brunswick.
She also served a term at the Naval Radio Station at Churchill, Manitoba
in 1953-54. On January 26, 1955, Doreen Patterson helped inspire Prime
Louis St. Laurent and his cabinet to
create a permanent and fully integrated regular force for women in the
Royal Canadian Navy. This decision—the first in the Commonwealth—paved
the way for thousands of Canadian women to follow in her footsteps.
Doreen married Gerard “Bill” Reitsma, a Korean War veteran, on August
18, 1960 and was the mother of two adopted children.
Nettie Paterson Reitsma” by Raymond Reitsma , The Vancouver Hall of
Fame, online (Accessed December 2012.)
Gail Toupin. Corporal
Toupin becomes the first woman
member of the Skyhawks, the skydiving demonstration team of the Canadian
Army in 1978.
Sheila Hellstrom. In
Colonel Sheila Hellstrom is the first woman to graduate from
Canada's National Defence College. She
will also become the 1st woman Regular Force
member to achieve the rank of Brigadier-General.
September 9, 1953, Pembroke, Ontario. Her father was a Lieutenant
Colonel in the Canadian Air Force and she is a self labeled Air force
brat. The family lived in 11 different Canadian forces bases as well as
two U.S. bases while she was growing up. After high school she tried
university but preferred to try the military instead. In 1972 she
enlisted as a Private and served as a clerk. She earned a commission as
Captain when she completed Officer Candidate Training Program as an air
weapons controller. After all this she sill wanted to fly. At this time
openings were not available for women to train as pilots but in 1979 a
window of opportunity opened and she became one of the 1st
four women to enter the Canadian Forces Flight Training. She graduated
on Feb 13, 1981 and
became the 1st woman flight instructor at Canadian Forces
Flight Training Schools in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan a position she enjoyed
for 5 years. In 1989 she and Captain Jane Foster became the 1st
two women fighter pilots in the world when they qualified to fly the CF
18 Hornet. An injury kept Dee out of the 1991 Gulf War and in
1994 Major Dee Brasseur retired from the Canadian military. She became a
motivational speaker and one of her popular topics is “The sky is NOT
the limit”. She founded “One in a million Project to raise financial
support to combat PTSD, something she herself has endured. After 9/11 in
the U.S.A. she rejoined the Canadian Forces as a Reserve Officer and is
a part time member of the air staff.
Remembrance Day: “Yes Ma’am” Canada’s female military pioneers.
news.com (Accessed March 2014) : www. Deebrasseur.com (Accessed March
Dr. Clay was the first woman
officer cadet in the Royal Canadian Navy. She the 1st woman medical
officer in the Armed forces and the 1st Canadian woman to receive her
degree in aviation medicine. She was the first woman to graduate from
the military's basic pilot training and
1974 she qualified for her pilots wings six years before the pilot
classification is opened to all women
1994 she became the first woman in the Canadian Forces promoted to the
rank of Major-General .
Born 1962(?) Egypt. Died June 5 2012. At 15 she decided to “cover”
herself as part of her religious dedication to being a Muslim. She was
the 1st woman in her family to wear a hijab (a Muslim Woman’s
head covering). She earned a bachelor of science while living in Kuwait
and later earned a MBA. Wafa moved to Montreal in 1990 and in
1996 she relocated to Windsor,
Ontario. Unable to find a suitable job and one day unable to get into
the employment offices she found herself in a Canadian Forces
recruitment office. After considering what the armed services had to
offer Wafa joined the Canadian Naval Reserve.
She was the 1st Muslim woman
wearing a head covering to enlist and serve.
. Although the
initial reaction of the service personnel was reluctance she soon proved
that she was an able individual who fit right into the program.
Determination is one of her strong suits. She found that the female
uniform skirt was too tight fitting for her belief so she donned
maternity smock. There were no opening for an officer when she enlisted
so she underwent basic training as a non-commissioned member. Once her
training was complete an officer position became available so she was
back in basic training. Unfortunately she was injured and after 3 months
recovery she was back in basic training meeting all requirements. She
would obtain the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In 2006 she was training
Naval Cadets. In 2007 she participated in Operation Proteus, a Canadian
training mission in Jerusalem. In 2012 she was awarded the Queen’s
Diamond Jubilee Medal. She did not start out to be the 1st
but she was pleased to be able to show that “covered” Muslim women could
have a place in Canada’s military if that is what they desired. Sources:
Various obituaries from several different publications.
Born Quebec City, Quebec May 29, 1971.
A captain with the Canadian Air Force, Maryse had the job of VIP pilot
flying the Prime Minister or the Governor General of Canada.
In November 2000 she became the 1st female pilot to fly with the Canadian Forces’s national aerobatic team, the Snowbirds. In 2001
she was promoted to the rank of Major. She is married to Major Scott
Greenough, who is also a pilot with the Canadian Forces.
Marta Mulkins. Lieutenant-Commander Marta
Mulkins is the 1st woman to serve as captain of
a Canadian warship, the HMCS Summerside in 2000.
Born Hamilton, Ontario. Jennifer earned her BA in Physical Education at
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario and her Bachelor in Education at
Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario followed with an MA in Leadership
and Training at Royal Roads University. Her father was a long serving
Reserves in the Canadian Forces so it was natural for her to enroll in
the Naval reserve as a Naval Commander in 1975. In 1977 she transferred
to the Naval Reserve Officer and Cadet Program for training as a
logistics Officer. In 1979 she was promoted to the level of a
Sub-Lieutenant. By 2000 after service across Canada she was promoted to
the level of Captain (Navy) and became Director of Reserves in National
Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. In civilian life she had held positions
as a teacher and administrator in elementary and secondary schools in
Ontario and British Columbia. In 2007 she gained a promotion to
Commodore in the reserves. May 31, 2001
Rear Admiral Bennett became the first female Chief Reserves and Cadets.
Her position advises the Chief of Defence Staff on Primary Reserves, the
Cadets Organization Administration and training Service as well as the
Michelle "Mickey" Colton.
1958, Kitchener, Ontario. Mickey joined the Canadian Armed Forces and in
1980 became one of the 1st Canadian women trainee pilots. At
the beginning it was difficult with only so few women pilots. Mickey
says she got through those years and felt really accepted when people
stopped calling her a female pilot and simply called her a pilot!. She
believes women have made the air force much more professional.
She is the 1st Canadian Herculese
pilot to reach 5000 hours of flying. She retired for full
service in 2001 but remains in the reserves where she will serve but not
fly. In 2009 for the 100th anniversary of flight in Canada,
100 names of Canadian Aviation giants of flight history were painted on
the side of a CF-18 plane monument. Mickey Colton is one of those names.
Remembrance Day: “Yes Ma’am” Canada’s female military pioneers.
news.com (Accessed March 2014) :
Colleen Beattie. Master Seaman Colleen
Beattie is the 1st woman in the Canadian Forces
to qualify as a submariner in 2003. It was announced in 2000,
by the Chief of the Canadian Forces Maritime Staff , that women may serve
Mary Ann Burdette
née Norstrom. Born Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In 1958 she enlisted in
the armed Forces and served as an Air Force policewoman. Returning to
civilian life she took a position as an office administrator with the
Provincial Government. In 1969 she joined her local branch of the Royal
Canadian Legion in Terrace Bay, British Columbia. She worked at several
executive positions and became the first woman to serve as President of
her Branch. By 1989 after serving again in several positions on provincial
she became the first woman to head up the Pacific Command of the
Royal Canadian Legion. In 2004 she was elected as the Dominion President,
the first woman to hold this title. In 2005 she
took a successful trip to Afghanistan to visit the troops as part of her
outreaching to encourage the next generation membership for the Legion.
She has been awarded the Canadian Minister of Veteran’s Affairs
Commendation for her dedication and service.
Legion acclaims Dominion President… June 15, 2004
www.legion.ca/nesa (accessed June 2007)
née Beverly MacDonald Born Halifax, Nova Scotia August 23, 1951.
Bev was on of the first group of 32 women forces trained for the RCMP in
Saskatchewan in 1974. During her career she served in a number of
front-line operational positions including general duty, fraud,
investigations. Drug enforcement and crimes investigation. During the time
she was working she studied for her BA at Simon Fraser University in and
earned a law degree from the University of British Columbia. She moved up
through the rants fro inspector in 1992, superintendent in 1996, (the
highest ranking woman in the RCMP at that time) Assistant Commissioner and
Commanding Officer of Saskatchewan. She left the force in 1999 to head up
the Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia. By 2000 she was back with
the RCMP as Commanding Officer of British Columbia and then Deputy
Commissioner for the Pacific Region.
On December 16, 2006 she became the first woman appointed as Canadian
Commissioner of the force.
In 2004 she was invested Commander of the Order of Merit of the
Police Forces and in June 2006 she received the Order of British Columbia.
She also holds the 30 year long service award from the RCMP and the
Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. She served as Commissioner of the RCMP,
retiring in July 2007 when she received the gratitude of the Government of
Canada for leading the force at a time when her dedication and support
were a required asset.
Source: Senior executives, RCMP. Biography: Beverley (Bev.) Busson.
http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/exec_bios/busson_e Also available in
French. (Accessed June 23, 2008)
Boisclair) Born Joliette, Quebec. In 1988 she graduated from CEGEP de
Lanaudière, Joliette and joined the Canadian Navy. In the 1990’s she
taught and was an administrator at the Naval Officer Training Centre. By
2005 she had earned her B.A. in history and geography from the
University of Ottawa and in 2007 she earned her Masters of Defense
Studies at the Canadian Forces Defense College, Toronto, Ontario. In
2007 she was an executive Officer on the HMCS Ville de Québec.
On April 6, 2009 she became the 1st
woman to command a major Canadian Navy warship, the HMCS
Halifax. In 2012 she served as Commandant of the Canadian Forces Naval
Operations School, Halifax Nova Scotia. She is married and has one
daughter. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the HMCS
Sackville a World War ll Corvette. The volunteer group wants to secure
the long term future of this ship. She also volunteers with Camp Hill
Veterans’’ Memorial Hospital in Halifax.
Women’s History Month, Women in Canadian Military Forces: A Proud
Legacy. Status of Women Canada. October 2011.
Marie Louise Fish
Marie Louise began her career in the Canadian Military. She would become
the 1st woman to serve as a naval officer at sea. It was part
of a pilot project to employ women in previously all-male naval units.
There were very few women in the Navy at this time and training meant
arduous training alongside male counterparts. When she retired from the
Canadian Military she was the 1st
woman to serve as president of the Ontario Association of College and
University Security Administrators. At the three graduate
institutions she was associated with, The Royal Military College,
Kingston, Ontario, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario and Trent
University, Peterborough, Ontario she developed policies and practices
to enhance women’s safety and increased the representation of women on
security staff. In 2010 she was one of the recipients of the Governor
General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case which recognizes
women who have worked to advance equality for women in Canada.
Source: Women’s History Month, Women in Canadian Military Forces: A
Proud Legacy. Status of Women Canada. October 2011.
Susan L. Wigg.
Susan visited a Canadian Military recruiting office and then became one
of the 1st 32 women to attend the Royal Military College
(RMC), Kingston, Ontario. She graduated in 1984 and served with
distinction. From 2006-2010 she was stationed at Supreme Allied
Headquarters Europe located in Belgium as Senior Staff Officer for
Strategic Operational Planning. She planned NATO (North Atlantic Treaty
Association) actions during Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Susan
was a founding member of the Defense Women’s Advisory Organization which
provides members perspectives to Canadian Forces leadership regarding
efforts to address diversity issues and to create a more inclusive
environment. In 2009 she received the General Campaign Star South-West
Asia Medal for her service in Afghanistan.
During 2010 - 2012
Lieutenant Colonel Wigg was the 1st woman to become Director of Cadets
She is also the 1st Canadian
service woman of this rank to have children.
Women in Canadian Military Forces: A proud Legacy. Women’s
History Month, October 2011. Status of Women Canada. Online (Accessed
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