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.

Julia Catherine Hart. (née Beckwith)   Born Fredericton, New Brunswick March 10, 1796. Died November 28, 1867.  She wrote the first work of fiction by a native born Canadian to be published in Canada.  Her novel was called St Ursula’s Convent or The Nun of Canada, Containing Scenes from Real Life” (1824). She wrote this book when she was only 17 years old! She would continue publishing her writings while she raised 6 children!
Mary Elizabeth Bibb. née Miles. Born Rhode Island, U.S.A. 1820. Died Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. 1877. Mary was born a free Black Quaker and was privileged to be educated , graduating from Normal School (Teacher’s College) in Lexington, Massachusetts. She was one of the first Black women teachers in North America. In 1847 she met her future husband Henry Bibb ( d. 1854) who was an escaped slave, at an anti-slave rally in New York City. The couple were wed a year latter and settled in Boston. In 1850 the couple fled to Canada after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law which could have caused Henry to be re-enslaved. Settling in Sandwich, Canada West (now known as Windsor, Ontario) the couple played a key role in the famous Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves settle in Canada. The co-published the newspaper The Fugitive Voice beginning in 1851. Mary is credited with being the 1st Black woman journalist in Canada. Later her sister-in-law Mary Shadd Cary would become the first Black woman publisher of a newspaper. Mary Bibb also operated a dress making business and taught both adult Black and their children in a class in her own home. She fought for Black schooling in the area for several years. After Henry’s death she carried on until 1871 when she returned to the USA. She and Henry were declared Persons of National Historic Significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 2002. Sources: Section15.ca ; Merna Forster 100 more Canadian Heroines; Famous and Forgotten Faces (Toronto; Dundurn Press, 2011.

Félicité Angers. Born January 9, 1845. Died June 6, 1924. This was the pen name of Laure Conan, author of nine novels of French Canadian Life. She was a witness to her time. She was the 1st French Canadian female novelist. All her novels centered on the 3 driving forces of French Canadian life, family, nation, and religion.

Isabella Valancy Crawford.  Born December 25, 1847 Dublin, Ireland. Died February 12, 1887 Toronto, Ontario. .  Isabella emigrated with her family from Ireland around 1857. At one point when life was at its worst for the family they became acquainted with Richard Strickland of Lakefield, Upper Canada (now Ontario) and his famous writing sister Susanna Moodie (1803-1885) and Catherine Parr Trail (1802-1899) and this is perhaps when Isabella began writing. In 1869 the family settled in Peterborough, Ontario and she published her 1st poem in the Toronto Mail newspaper on December 24, 1873.  After the death of her father in 1875 she began publishing popular verse and serialized novels in publications in Toronto and New York City, U.S.A. By 1876 she was living in Toronto, Ontario. In 1884 she published her only book; Old Spookses' Pass, Malcolm's Katie and Other Poems. She would be the 1st important woman poet in Canada. A complete collection of her works was published posthumously. She had died in poverty and for years her body lay in an unmarked grave. A fundraising campaign was begun in 1899, and on 2 November 1900, a six-foot Celtic Cross was raised above her grave, inscribed: "Isabella Valancy Crawford / Poet / By the Gift of God."
Robertine Barry. Born L’isle-Verte, Lower Canada February 26, 1863. Died January 7, 1910. A well known personality in Montreal society she was a pioneer feminist lecturer and writer. She is considered the 1st woman journalist in French Canada. She joined the staff of the weekly newspaper, La Patrie, in 1891. Here column was written for almost then years under the nom de plume of Francoise. She would go on in her career to found Le Journal d Francoise, published from 1902-1909 . She also would publish books of her short stories. In 1900 she was one of the Canadian government representatives to the famous Paris International Exhibition. In 1904 the government of France named her as an “Officer de l’Acaémie”
Kathleen “Kit” Coleman. Born Galway, Ireland 1864. Died 1915. After the death of her first husband, Kit immigrated to Canada in 1884. She turned to journalism to support herself and her two children after the death of her second husband. Boarding a boat in Florida she landed in Cuba as the world’s 1st female war correspondent in 1898 during  the Spanish American War. She would work with the Toronto Mail newspaper until she retired. Her full page column not only discussed fashion but reported in her personal outspoken manner all the top topics of the day. She would be a member of a group of women reporters who went to the World’s Fair in 1904. It was during this trip that she helped found the Canadian Women’s Press Club.

Josephine Dandurand. née Marchand Born St John, New Brunswick 1862. Died 1925. Like most early women writers she would use a pen name to sign her writing. She was known as Josette. A strong feminist she championed the role of women in Quebec society. In 1892 she founded le coin de feu which was the first women’s literary review in Canada. She was also a strong orator and was often called the female Laurier. Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He had a reputation as a great orator so it was a strong comparison for Josephine. In 1898 she was the 1st Canadian woman to be made an officer of the French Academy in France. In 1900 she was the government appointed Canadian Commissioner to the famous Paris Exhibition. In 1901 in her work, Two systems of art, she proposed government provide funding for the arts. This was a full 50 years before the Canada Council of the Arts.

Winnifred Eaton. Onoto Watanna Born Montreal, Quebec. 1875. Died April 8, 1954. She was the 8th child of 14 children of a British silk merchant and a Chinese mother, Grace, who had lived with missionaries. Both she and her older sister would take to the art of writing. Winnifred was a writer in many arenas from newspaper articles, magazines and journals, short stories, successful novels ( some of which became plays and movies) cookbooks, and movie scripts. She was 14 when she had her first newspaper article published. At seventeen she left home to wander to Jamaica and New York City. Although she was of Chinese she choose a Japanese pen name Onoto Watanna since Japanese novels were more popular. She married Bernard Babcock but the marriage was short lived. In 1917 she married Frances (Frank) Fournier Reeve and moved to settle to a ranch in Calgary Alberta for a couple of years before she once again had wanderlust ending up in Hollywood and New York once again. In 1932 she returned to her husband in Calgary to basically settle. She took an interest and founded the Little Theatre.  She was the 1st known writer of Asian descent to be published in America. Her 1st novel, Mrs Nomé of Japan, was published in Chicago in 1899 and was republished in 1999. Her granddaughter Diane Birchall who wrote Onoto Watanna, a biography in 2001.


Sara Anne McLagan née Maclure. Born 1855, Belfast, Ireland. Died March 20, 1924, Vancouver, British Columbia. She came to New Westminster, British Columbia with her family in 1859 to join their father  a surveyor with the Royal Engineers. At 15 she was working for her father as a telegrapher. In 1875 she was promoted to the Victoria Office. She resigned in 1884 as the Victoria Office Manager. She married and the couple moved to Vancouver where she became a co-founder of The Vancouver Daily World  newspaper with her husband James C. McLagan. After his death in 1901, she continued as president and editor, publishing with her brother Frederick S. Maclure (1864 – 1941). She is considered to be the first woman newspaper editor. She sold her successful paper in 1905 but continued to write about women’s issues. Sara was a member of the Canadian Women's Press Club (CWPC).  She was one of the original founders in 1904 of the Canadian Women’s Press Club and helped to set up the British Columbia Institute of Journalists. She was a founding member in 1894 of the Local Council of Women in Vancouver, serving as president 1898-1900. From 1903-1907 she was the provincial Vice-principle of the National Council of Women. Working with Lady Aberdeen’s Victorian Order of Nurses a training home for nurses was established in the city. She was also a founding member and president of the Art, Historical and Scientific Association as well as a worker with the I.O.D.E. and the YWCA.  Source: “Sara Anne McLagan” by Linda Hale, Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Online (Accessed December 2012)

Annie L. Jack(née Hayr)  Born Northampton, England January 1, 1839. Died February 15, 1912.  She was Canada’s 1st professional woman garden writer.  When she moved to Canada, she used her gardening skills to experiment and make a profit.  Her skills became known throughout North America and she was written up in American publications.  While she wrote and published short stories and poems, it is her horticultural articles for which she is remembered.  Her book The Canadian Gardener : A pocket Help of the Amateur  was published in 1903 and set the gardening standard for all of pre World War 1 Canada.
Annette Frémont. (Baptized Marie Jeanne Annie Saint-Amant) Born July 1, 1892 L’Avenir, Quebec. Died August 4, 1928, Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was educated by the sisters of L’Assomption and L’Ecole Norman (Teacher’s College) Laval graduating with diplomas in both English and French. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent 2 years at a sanatorium in New York State, U.S.A. During this time she occasionally sent articles to newspapers in Montreal. In 1914, back in Canada she and her sister, Marie moved to Gravelbourg Saskatchewan to teach. In 1918 the editor of the first French language newspaper in the province, La Patriote de l”Ouest,  sought Annette out to become the editor of the women’s page. Annette moved to Prince Albert Saskatchewan and became the 1st francophone woman journalist in Saskatchewan. Her writings reached rural women throughout the province and her works included poems, stories along with helpful hints. Soon she created a second column, Le Coin des Enfants which encouraged children to write. On December 26, 1918 she married Donatien Frémont (  -1967), the assistant editor of the paper. The couple had one child. In 1923 the family moved to St. Boniface, Manitoba where Donatien was Chief Editor for La Liberté Annette soon became editor for the women’s section. After her death, Donatien produced a collection of her writings, L’ Art d’être heureuse. (Montréal 1929. Sources: Herstory, the Canadian Women’s Calendar 2006 Coteau Books, 2005; Dictionary of Canadian Biography online Accessed April 2013.
Léonise Valois. Born October 11, 1868, Quebec. Died May 1936. Her 1st job as a journalist was with Le Monde illustré where she was hired in 1900 to write the women’s page. Her pen name was ‘Attala’ or ‘Atala’. In 1904 she was a member of the group of 16 women who took a Canadian Pacific train trip to cover the St. Louis World’s Fair. On the train trip home the women formed the Canadian Women’s Press Club that would survive as an organization for 100 years. After the trip Léonise worked in a post office until she retired in 1929. Later in life she would return to writing sporadically for various Quebec journals. She was the 1st woman in Quebec to publish a volume of poetry, Fleurs sauvages, in 1910. She wrote for La Terre de chez nous, a weekly agricultural newspaper until 1931 when she had an accident that had her in a coma for 63 days. She slowly recuperated and published a second book of poetry in 1934 called Feuilles tombées. A feminist to the last, her will specified that capital funds to her sisters did not require signature of their husbands. At this time, Quebec law required husbands to endorse inheritance cheques for wives to receive the monies. Source. Linda Kay. Sweet Sixteen (McGill Queens University press, 2012) . Book: Léonaise Valois: femme de lettres by Louise Warren (Hexagon, 1993)
Genevieve Elsie Alice Lipsett-Skinner      Journalist    
Born 1886 Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. Died January 29, 1935, Montreal, Quebec. The young Lipsett family moved to Toronto when Genevieve was just an infant. Later they relocated to Winnipeg and back to the U.S.A. settling in New York. From 1900-1903 she attended New York Normal School (Teachers College) and in 1904 she was off to Manitoba to teach. She found herself working from 1904 through 1917 with the Winnipeg Telegram newspaper as a reporter and editor to the “Sunshine Department of the paper. Outside of the office she served in 1909-10 as Secretary for the Winnipeg Branch of the Canadian Women’s Press Club. In 1910 she served as Director of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society. On June 6, 1911 she married Winnipeg businessman Robert Curtis Skinner, whom she stated was a staunch supporter of herself as a modern working woman. In 1912 she joined the Political Equality League, an organization dedicated to the advancement of women’s rights including the right to vote. In 1918 she and her younger brother Robert Lipsett started the Lipsett-skinner Press News Bureau specializing in Publicity Campaigns. It was a memorable year for Genevieve as she graduated in law from the University of Manitoba as the 1st qualified married woman in this field. By 1919 she saw the end of her marriage and was once again working back at the Telegram. In June 1920 she was an unsuccessful candidate for the Progressive Conservative party running for the Manitoba Provincial Legislature. Later that same year she began working for the Vancouver Sun newspaper out of British Columbia. She would spend the next five years as an official Parliamentary correspondent in Ottawa, the 1st woman member of the Press Gallery. By 1926 she was writing for the Montreal Star newspaper. In the late 1920’s she toured England and Ireland lecturing about the Dominion of Canada. In 1933 her picture was hung on the Ottawa Press Gallery wall along with her male colleagues. While in Montreal she served four years as President of the local branch of the Canadian Women’s Press Club. At her funeral in Montreal large floral displays were presented from the CWPC and Prime Minister Mackenzie King. Source: Memorable Manitobans. Online. (Accessed June 2014) ; “Associates Mourn Noted Journalist.” Montreal Gazette February 21, 1935 ; Obituary. Winnipeg Tribune January 30, 1935.

Gwethalyn Graham (real name Gwethalyn Graham Erichse-Brown).  Born January 18, 1913.  This author would use only her first 2 names. Her 1945 novel Earth and High Heaven, was the 1st Canadian novel to top the American bestseller list. This same novel would win a Governor Generals Award, would sell for movie rights (alas it was never to be a movie) and would be translated into Braille and 18 different languages! She continued to write but always in the shadow that she could never do as well with another novel.  She wrote articles on immigration, anti-Semitism and women’s issues. Later in her career, she successfully turned her talents to writing TV Scripts.

Maisie Hurley née Campbell-Johnston. Born November 27, 1887, 1888, Swansea, Wales. Died October 3, 1964 North Vancouver, British Columbia.. Maisie moved to Canada with her family when her father was given a mining engineering job. As a young woman Maisie attempted to eloped a minister. She was sent o England to be educated and in 1909 she married J. R. Armitage-Moore but the marriage did not last long. Being Catholic she could not obtain a divorce and live common law with Martin Murphy. While in the U.S.A. would manage a group of boxers who provided entertainment in the lumber camps of the Pacific northwest. It is said that she was taught to ride a horse by the infamous Canadian train robber, Bill Miner. She worked with the union known as the IWW- International Workers of the World. She had a sincere desire to better working conditions for families. She left Washington state and returned to Canada with her family of five children after a dangerous union riot. She met a lawyer Tom Hurley and the couple would marry in 1951 after the death of her 1st husband. Tom was well known for his pro bono (free) work for Aboriginal clients. In 1944 she became the 1st woman associate life member of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia. Maisie served her husband's legal secretary. In 1946 she founded and edited the 1st native newspaper in Canada called The Native Voice. She was a strong advocate of Native rights and was actually jailed at one point for her support of clients rights. Her second husband Tom Hurley was a lawyer working with the Native community. She also became a noted collector of aboriginal art and artifacts. Her collection is now housed in the North Vancouver Museum and Archives Association. Source: Canadian Encyclopedia (2020)
Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk. Born 1931 Kangiqusujuaq, Quebec. Died 2007. An esteemed story teller whose stories and legends have been broadcast for years on the CBC radio she draws on her traditional upbringing. She had her feet firmly planted in both the traditions of her people and the modern worlds. As an author she is the 1st author to write a novel in the Inuktitul language, Sanaaq. The book was not published until 1984 and the French edition was published in 2002 and an English edition was published in 2014. She has translated the Roman Catholic Book of Prayer into Inuktitut so that her people my learn in their own language. She has compiled an encyclopedia of traditional Inuit knowledge, legends and natural history so that the traditional spoken knowledge may be passed to all who seek knowledge of the unique culture of her people. In 1999 she received an National Aboriginal Achievement Award for her contributions to heritage and spirituality. In 2004 she was named a Member of the Order of Canada. (2019)
Emily Pauline Johnston. Born March 10, 1861 Six Nations Indian Reserve, Canada West (now Ontario). Died March 7, 1913 Vancouver, British Columbia. Her Mohawk name was Tekahionwake, meaning double life. Her mother was from England and her father a Mohawk hereditary clan chief. She was raised learning both English and Mohawk languages and was homeschooled until she was 14 when she attended Brantford Central Collegiate graduating in 1877. In 1884 she published her 1st full length poem, My little Jean in Gems of Poetry magazine out of New York, U.S.A. It was during this decade that she began to  be published regularly in the Toronto Globe, Saturday Night magazine and the Week.  She became Canada’s 1st renowned native poet she was also the 1st native born cultural ambassador. She  worked towards unity for all peoples and the land when most settlers were only thinking of human unity.  She took her poetry all over Europe where she performed her readings in her native dress. In 1912  a collection of her poems was published, Flint and Feather which as been one of the best-selling titles of Canadian poetry republished many times. She retired from the stage in 1909 and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia where she wrote of the Squamish people of North Vancouver.  In 1922 a cairn was erected at the burial site in Vancouver's Stanley Park , with an inscription reading in part, "in memory of one whose life and writings were an uplift and a blessing to our nation". In 1945 Pauline Johnson was designated a Person of National Historic Significance. On the Centennial of her birth in 1961 Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp with her image making her the 1st woman, other than the Queen, the 1st author, and the 1st aboriginal Canadian to appear on a Canadian stamp. There are 4 schools named in her honour and her birth home, Chiefwood is listed as a National Historic site.  Her biography by Charlotte Gray was published in 2002 and may be available at your public library. That same year Tekahionwake: Collective Poems and Selected Prose was published containing all of Pauline's poems found to that date.

Gwendolyn Ringwood.  (née Phares) Born Anatone, Washington U.S.A. August 13, 1910. Died May 24, 1984. In 1941 she received the Governor General's Award for outstanding service to Canadian drama. She was the 1st Canadian playwright to publish a volume of collected plays in 1982.

Gabrielle Roy. Born March 22, 1909. Died July 13, 1983. As a young woman she trained as a teacher at the Winnipeg Norma School (Teachers College). Between 1929 and 1937 she would teach in the backwoods of Manitoba and would later record and publish her memories her experiences in La Petit Poule  d'eau. This novel would become a stable for English Canadian school children to read in their French language classes. A 3 time winner of the Governor General’s Award in Literature in 1947, 1957 and 1977, as well as international award holder, she is one of the most important Canadian writers of the Post World War II Era in Canada. Some of her works have been translated into 15 different languages. In 1947, the year she won her first Governor General Award for Bonheur d'occasion ( translated into English as the Tin Flute), she became  the 1st woman elected into the Royal Society of Canada.
Margaret Marshall Saunders. Born Milton, Nova Scotia April 13, 1861. Died February 15, 1947.  Margaret originally wrote under the name Marshall Saunders to hide her identity. While it was just becoming somewhat respectable for women to be writers when Margaret was publishing her works, writings by women were not best sellers. In 1894 she wrote Beautiful Joe, a story of an abused dog, for a competition sponsored by the American Humane Society.  It won first prize! Beautiful Joe would  became the 1st Canadian book to sell more than 1,000,000 copies. It was translated into more than 14 different languages.

Audrey Grace Thomas. Born Binghamton, New York, U.S.A. November 17, 1935. Educated in the U.S.A. and Scotland, this writer taught in England prior to moving to Canada to continue her studies to earn her MA at the University of British Columbia. She has published numerous short stories and full length novels. She was the 1st Canadian Woman to be invited to serve as Writer in Residence and the University of Edinbourough in Scotland.

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