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.


Jean Flatt Davey . Born 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. Source: The Indomitable Lady Doctors by Carlotta Hacker (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Co Ltd, 1974) ; Order of Canada, www.gg.ca (Accessed February 2014)

Fern Blodget  Sunde Born 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 services. 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 the city. Source: !00 more Canadian Heroines by Merna Forster (Dundurn Press, 2011)
Mary Greyeyes-Reid. Born 1920 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 industrial seamstress. Sources: Women’s History Month: Women in Canadian Military Forces: A proud Legacy. Status of Women Canada. October 2011. Online (Accessed March 2014)
Isabel Janet 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)
Elizabeth Lawrie Smellie. 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.
Doreen 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 Minister 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. Source: “Doreen 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 1988 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.
Deanna "Dee Brasseur. Born 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. Source: Remembrance Day: “Yes Ma’am” Canada’s female military pioneers. http://foreveryour news.com (Accessed March 2014) : www. Deebrasseur.com (Accessed March 2014)
Wendy Clay.  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 in 1974 she qualified for her pilots wings six years before the pilot classification is opened to all women  In 1994 she became the first woman in the Canadian Forces promoted to the rank of Major-General .
Wafa Dabbagh 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.

Maryse Carmichael.  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.
Jennifer Bennett 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 Supplementary Reserve.
Michelle "Mickey" Colton. Born 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. Source: Remembrance Day: “Yes Ma’am” Canada’s female military pioneers. http://foreveryour 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 in submarines.
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 executive 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.  Source: Legion acclaims Dominion President… June 15, 2004 www.legion.ca/nesa (accessed June 2007)
Bev Busson 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)
Josée Kurtz. (née 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.  Source: Women’s History Month, Women in Canadian Military Forces: A Proud Legacy. Status of Women Canada. October 2011.
Marie Louise Fish In 1974 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.  In 1980 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 at RMC. She is also the 1st Canadian service woman of this rank to have children.  Source: Women in Canadian Military Forces: A proud Legacy. Women’s History Month, October 2011. Status of Women Canada. Online (Accessed March 2014.)

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