A Guide to Women in Canadian History

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Reasons for Signing Canadian Women on Bank Notes Petition

In July 2013, historian and author Merna Forster began a petition calling on the Bank of Canada and the Minister of Finance (who approves bank note designs) to celebrate female Canadian historical figures on Canadian bank notes. After signing the petition, tens of thousands of Canadians posted comments in a section called Reasons for Signing. Here are just a few of the posts from the petiton page.

Canadian women on banknotes petition

You can read & sign petition at change.org.

  • It's ridiculous that this even requires discussion and petition in the 21st century. It's a national embarrassment for Canada. Hans Rollmann, Toronto

  • My little girl is 5 , her daddy builds ships as a profession and she absolutely loves them.......but it was even evident for her that a girl and all that she represents is more valuable than a ship....this signature is from both of us. Thank you and Good Luck! Lucy Tsanaktsis, Laval

  • It's unsettling when an organization as staid and influential as the Bank of Canada can't fathom a "no brainer". Herb Neufield, Victoria

  • My SON was horrified to hear this. His reaction made me decide to sign rather than simply shrug and think "So what's new?" It seems to me that we need young people to react. Pippa Moss, Nova Scotia

  • Can't believe this is even an issue - UNBELIEVABLE!!! Karen Walker, Victoria

  • Featuring women who have achieved great things for Canada should be common sense (cents)! Chief Mathieya Alatini, Kluane First Nations (Burwash, Yukon)


    The powerful peacemaker Thanadelthur, at centre. (Painting by Franklin
    Arbuckle,1952/Hudson's Bay Co. Archives)

  • As a Canadian citizen, I know it's important that the women of Canada are supported in full. Being a male adolescent, even I can see that this is wrong, and the Canadian government needs to see that too. Lane Harper, Calgary

  • I work as a professor of the history of women and gender at McMaster University. The symbols we use to represent our country are important, and our young men and women (including my children) learn what it significant through such means. Karen Balcom, Guelph

  • Where would this country be without women - from the early pioneers who made it possible for the men to survive, to our early "suffragettes" to all the women who contribute daily to the well-being of this country? It should be a "no-brainer" to the men who design the bills, that women should be proportionately represented! Do it now! Hedie L. Epp, Winnipeg

  • Women have played a role in history, Who worked and kept the fires burning when men were at war....we need to be recognized as important figures in history. and we need to be recognized .as just as important as men. Let's see how absolutely open Mr.Poltz really is to putting women on currency.******* Pamela McGuire, Nanaimo

  • I am the father of a young woman who, when she was 12, set a goal to be the first elected woman Prime Minister of Canada. I believe she will be that person one day. Moreover, I am the Dean of Science at a Canadian University that annually produces a class of incredibly talented young women. Finally, I have had the great good fortune to work with and know some phenomenal women scientists. There are many Canadian women who deserve to be celebrated with the recognition of their lives' work. We should use all of the opportunities we have to provide such recognition--including prominent displays on bank notes. Thomas Dickinson, Kamloops

    Dr. Frances Kelsey

    Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, shown in a lab in the 1930's, is a Canadian heroine who blocked the release of thalidomide in the U.S.

  • Les femmes ont fait une grande diff�rence dans notre soci�t� : Jeanne-Mance, Marguerite Bourgeois, Louise McKinney, madame Casgrain, etc. En fait poser cette question concernant la justification � la repr�sentation des femmes sur les billets de banque est ridicule. Monique Deschene, Montreal

  • I feel we must support equality in all people! Cynthia Devos, Norton, NB

  • Women are 50% of the population. There is no excuse for not featuring women's accomplishments in equal measure to that of men. The fact that this seems not to occur to those making the decision about the graphics on the Canadian currency is evidence enough to show how important it is not to forget half the population. Magda Lewis, Kingston

  • Young women need to know that others who have gone before them have accomplished their goals and made real contributions to the development of this country. Puneet Parhar, Mississauga

  • I find it ridiculous that it takes a petition to point out that someone from the other 50% of the population should appear on the currency. Catherine Holt, Victoria

  • Visible role models are important. Is money so important and powerful a symbol of society, it can only be associated with men? Please don't use the excuse women have never done anything worthy. Nancy Niles, Calgary

  • If, as you say, our bank notes belong to all Canadians, then how about the 52% of the population you are ignoring - women? I just looked at my calendar and, yes, it IS 2013, not 1913. You are supposed to represent all of us, not just 48% of Canadians - the men. Leanne Bishop, Vancouver

  • Our nation, (our world!) has evolved with the equal participation of both men and women and it is well past time to recognize the participation of women in our nations history on our currency. Allan MacIsaac, Toronto

  • The better question might be - "Why wouldn't it be important?" With all the out-loud rhetoric about gender equality, the intentional exclusion of women in any areas of our society is abysmal, abominable, and just plain stupid. Helen Pinnel, Victoria

  • Women are important and should be included. This is very sad for Canada. Phon Syn, Kitchner

  • Each time Mr. Poloz is asked Why are identifiable Canadian women not on the back of our currency? His answer curt, emotionless and sounds like a broken record "we are open to suggestions from all Canadians!" Really? How about the Canadians signing this petition once again? Cause we WILL KEEP SIGNING until we get his attention.. Barb Eaton, Tecumsah

  • The Famous Five and Therese Casgrain are absolutely integral to the history of Canadian women - easily as important to women in the Canadian political arena as was John A. Macdonald. To have all trace of us removed from our national currency is just like the arguments that were used against the "persons case" that the Famous Five fought - we simply don't count as significant persons in Canada. In 2013, that is simply outrageous and not to be tolerated. Rev. Mackenzie, Hamilton

  • Women are being erased on money, on passports...we are going backward! Please stop this ignominious slide! Michele Landsberg

  • Where would this country be without women - from the early pioneers who made it possible for the men to survive, to our early "suffragettes" to all the women who contribute daily to the well-being of this country? It should be a "no-brainer" to the men who design the bills, that women should be proportionately represented! Do it now! Hedie L. Epp, Winnipeg

  • Women are an important part of Canada's history and should therefore be represented too! Why is this even an issue?? Malisa Godfroy Ajax, Canada

  • Wake up and show some respect to the women who have made our nation great! Laurie Evelyn, Barrie

    Marie de la Tour

    Marie de la Tour, the heroine of Acadia who commanded Fort La Tour while it was being attacked.

  • Women have been marginalized enough in history and it is embarrassing that a first world country like Canada does not do more on a federal government level to help even the playing field and recognize Canadian women in a public way. It was shameful to see the Famous Five removed from the 50$ bill, and frankly also to see the arts removed from the $20 including the wonderful quote, though tiny, written by Canadian Quebec author Gabrielle Roy on the $20. I hope this petition helps reverse this terrible decision by Bank of Canada and that we will soon see representation of Canada's famous women on it's currency again. Colleen Sharpe, Red Deer

  • I'm astounded that this has happened! What a travesty.... Elizabeth Abbott, Toronto

  • This is grossly negligent of the need for gender equity in our Canadian society. A missed opportunity to do something really positive. Jane Andersen, Gibsons

  • Public symbols are powerful indicators of what is important to a nation. The contribution of women to the public good is surely worthy of symbolic representation on the currency that every Canadian looks at thousands of times a year. I suggest that the replacement of the 5 women who secured public "personhood" for their sisters with an icebreaker was not an innocuous act, but a calculated one to reduce Canada to "traditional" imagery and values. Where is Agnes MacPhail, the first women elected to parliament? How could it be seen as appropruate to replace the Famous Five with an inanimate object ? Where are the women who have made huge contributions to the social, political and culture advancement of the country? We can and must do better. Sophia Sperdakos, Toronto

  • It is important that my daughter grow up in a world where the achievements of women are celebrated alongside the achievements of men. These women must be visible, and no where are they more visible than on our national currency. Lisa Kishkan, Quesnel

    Emily Carr painting

    A painting by acclaimed artist Emily Carr, heralded in the UK as a Canadian Vincent Van Gogh.

  • We encourage girls to aspire to greater goals when we provide them with role models and equal opportunity. Putting exceptional women on bank notes is not only important for recognizing the contribution of women to society in the past, but also normalizes women in positions of prominence and power, effectively reducing the barriers many women face. Brittany Haughey, Regina

  • I am a Canadiian woman and roughly half of the population of Canada is female. Why then are we not represented equally with men on the Canadian banknotes? The message is clear - the men who comprise the majority of the political and monetary power base in this country do not see us as equals. It is time for that power base to change it's attitudes and signal that change by including us in the most circulated form of recognition in the country - banknotes and coins. Susan Staniforth, Fenelon Falls

  • It is a unconscionable oversight to ignore Canadian women on our currency. It is easily remedied. Jane MacMillan, Halifax

  • We wouldn't have a currency featuring only women so why is it acceptable to have one featuring only men? Emma Jones, Ottawa

  • Women have contributed to Canada in so many ways, yet we are unrecognized by the Bank of Canada. This sends a backward facing message to Canadians and the world. Canada is better than this, Canada is a leader in women's rights and recognition. The Bank of Canada needs to step up to a responsibility to represent everyone, not just a minority of persons who have contributed to Canada. Cindy Krysac, Etobicoke

  • Even if it was not intentional, the message sent by the Bank of Canada is the following: Even the most important, the most dedicated, the most heroic female Canadian... has not been as important to the country as that one icebreaker ship. I refuse to let this message pass. I refuse to let my country overlook my fellow citizens! Diana Popa, Montreal

  • That no Canadian women appear on any of the bank notes demonstrates both an institutional ignorance to the fact that many brave and accomplished women have contributed this country and a decided denial of female role models for our young women and girls. Tricia Toso, Montreal

  • It is absolutely ridiculous to represent only men on the bank notes...as if there were no great Canadian women! Susan Surette, Brigham, Quebec

    E. Cora Hind

    E. Cora Hind, the renowned agriculturalist, journalist and activist. (Winnipeg Free Press photo).

  • There have been countless great women who have been part of the building of CANADA and to ignore them is to step backwards in time, to try to erase us from public consciousness. You insist on having a foreign monarch and yet not one Canadian woman. No wonder girls have low self-esteem. SHAME. Judith Thompson, Toronto

  • When you think about it, it's absurd that there are no images of Canadian Women on Canadian currency. Debra Thorne, Vancouver

  • It beggars belief that women can be so grossly omitted from any representation on our bills in 21st century Canada! Ishrath Frahana, Toronto

  • I was reading recently on how online pornography is changing young men's perception and attitude towards women. Erasing herstory from everyday life reinforces that women are not equal and meaningful contributors. Yolande Lapointe, Mississauga

  • Women need to be represented on the things that represent Canada - and our bank notes are an everyday representation of what Canada is and what it stands for - - so let the women be visible (or decide that women should be running the bank of Canada, if men can't seem to understand the notion of representing diversity). BJ Danylchuk, Toronto

  • It is astonishing that the Bank of Canada has not yet figured out that women as well as men are a part of the history and leadership of this country. Let's get on with it, guys! Liz Whynot, Vancouver

  • Last time I checked, women contribute (and contributed) hugely to this country. This is a no-brainer. Nancy Bateman, Edmonton

  • A shameful omission �..think again and let our female heroes be honour as well. Denise Gibbons, Mansons Landing, BC

  • It is especially saddening to hear that Mr. Carney has allowed women onto the British Bank Notes, but changed ours. If women are equal to men in Canada, they should be equally represented on our currency. Grace Alexander, Toronto

    Mark Carney unveiling design for Jane Austen note

    Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who removed Canadian women from Canadian bank notes, after unveiling the design for the new Jane Austen bank note in England.

  • I don't know if it's misogyny or just a complete lack of insight, but the Bank of Canada needs to wake up and present a Canadian currency that reflects Canadian people. Richard Fulop, Vancouver

  • Is it really still a point of debate that pride in those who shaped the country should not be limited to male figures? Srimonti, Karmakar, Toronto

  • This is important to me because I am a woman. I have three daughter and one grand-daughter. We want to see women's valuable contributions to this country recognized. We want to celebrate who these women are. Put them on our bank notes now! It's the 21st century and we shouldn't even have to be petitioning for this any more. Shelley Woloshyn, Saskatoon

  • That this is an issue, and is even up for debate, is an insult to Canadian women.. I vote YES to equal represention of women on our bank notes. Please Bank of Canada, do the right thing! Irene Boehm, North Vancouver, B.C.

  • We need more women's voices, images and lives celebrated. We become equal when we celebrate equality. Denaq Ellery, Vancouver

  • I am tired of the disproportionate men or their toys on our bills and war based imagery on the canada savings bonds. we are 52% of the population. please stop over representing dead white males. Kelly Haydon, Vancouver

  • It is reprehensible that there is not one of our great female Canadians on any of our bank notes. Simply disgusting. Susan Rutledge, Orangeville

  • While this may seem like a Feminism petition, this is really a petition signed to recognize that people of any sex who have dedicated their lives to innovation and progress be recognized. Simple as that. And frankly the men on bank notes are merely politicians.... when have politicians ever been that great? Matthew Azzopardi Mississauga

    Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, founder of the Unitarian Service Committee and one of Canada's
    greatest humanitarians.(USC photo)

  • There is no question that Canadian women should be featured on Canadian currency. Our young people, both male and female, need to see women who have contributed to our history be honoured in the way Canadian men have been honoured. Jane Calcaterra, North Bay

  • Men, women, children of the many diverse canadian heritages (native and immigrant) should be celebrated on our currency as a marker to the world of the diversity that is our canadian strength. We all deserve to see role model images we can identify with reflected in our national culture and national artefacts - especially those we publicly present to the world. Gwyneth Evans, Toronto

  • Really Mr Polz, please remedy Mark Carney's poor decision, by featuring amazing, incredible women on our bank notes. Lesley Wolford, Westholme, BC

  • Women and 50% of the Canadian population. In a democratic and liberal country that holds itself out as an example of egalitarianism and civil rights, how can this be? I want to see women on my money and there are plenty to choose from. There is no good excuse for this. Marie-Louise Twynam Burlington

  • It's incredible to think that it is 2013 and this is something that has to be petitioned. Alanna Penney, Portugal Cove St., Philip's

  • I find it very discouraging and disrespectful that the Government of Canada believes that there are no Canadian women who merit recognition on the bank notes. L Stalker, Vancouver

  • Don't ship these women! Sterling Sundby, Whitehorse

  • Why would we leave off half of Canadians from our money? If there were only women and no men on the notes, there would be astonishment, outcry, and outrage. There are hundreds of potential candidates, from explorers and scientists to artists, writers, musicians, actresses, and dancers. Let's not forget politicians, doctors, sports legends, and women who have simply and in very straightforward style changed their communities, the country, and the world. Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, Olympians, the list goes on. And on. And on. Rose Hamilton, Surrey

  • Searching my memory for the names of great female scientists, artists, composers, inventors, entrepreneurs and business leaders I am always embarrassed by the shortfall of names: patriarchy suppresses the profile of women in history: harming women and distorting the perceptions of men too, robbing us all of a full appreciation for human capacity and accomplishment. It is an injustice. It hurts my daughters and my friends. It makes all of us "less" and smaller. And it pisses me off. We all need to do our part to put women back into human history. Andrew Muir, Chelsea, Quebec

  • I am asked WHY this is important to me, in filling out the petition. take a wild guess. How about the Bank of Canada pulls its head out of its arse and gets a clue about the representation of women in Canada. It's nothing short of a disgrace, this weird oversight. Now, take some action already!!! Kathleen Kelly, Toronto

  • Women are equal to men and should be represented equally everywhere. Why are we still having to ask for this stuff? Barbara Lavigueur, Grand Lake

  • For equality. Maggie Lo, Vancouver

    Portia White

    Portia White, famous Canadian singer.

  • This is important to me because... we exist! Joanne Lagace, Thurso

  • Women have made an extraordinary contribution to this country, even before we were considered persons!! We should be going forward, not backward, Judy Cerra, Ottawa

  • Women have helped shape our history, just as men have. To not include women on Canadian bank notes is a signal that the government does not see women as important contributors to our history or to our economy. This is clearly discrimination against women. How is that possible in the 21st century in Canada? Jennifer Iredale Victoria

  • It's 2013, does this question even need to be asked ? Margie Graham, Edmonton

  • It's embarrassing for people in a civilized nation even to be having this conversation. Put women in positions of cultural visibility please. Tamsin Kelsey, Toronto

  • Parce que je suis une femme et que je veux sentir que j'appartiens a ce pays, je veux me reconnaitre dans ce pays, je veux evoluer avec ce pays, je veux m'inspirer de ce pays. Montrez-moi toutes celles qui etaient la avant moi. Alexandra Dubreuil-Gagnon,Montreal

  • Limiting pictures on bills to men is an embarrassing revelation (and wild exaggeration) of women's insignificance in Canadian public and intellectual life. Why would we tell the world that our country doesn't value the many women leaders we've produced in all fields? Jane Power, Vancouver

  • Little girls need to know they are persons who grow into women with much to offer to Canada. Mary Elderkin, Nepean

  • Around the world , even after decades of work by many caring people, women are still marginalized and still working for the right for equality in areas that men have been given an advantage for centuries. Young women are bombarded by images that treat them as objects and there is not enough of a voice out there showing what women have achieved through the centuries . It would be wonderful to see women of canada on our banknotes as behind all the successful men out there , is a woman or women who helped him along the way . Too many of our fine women role models are delegated to the back page of history. It is time to shine the light on women. Elizabeth Pinard, London, Ontario

  • We hold up half the heavens. It's about time for women to share half the bank notes.***** Irene Wright Salt Spring Island, BC

  • In 2013 an explanation should not be needed as to why our government or it's agencies should honour Canadian women. But, alas, seems some issues need constant reminders to those unthinking & unenlightened individuals who are making decisions such as these.***** Julie Danielson, Scarborough

    Jean Lumb

    Jean Lumb, a notable activist and community worker who played an important role in changing restrictive immigration policies.

  • Half the population are women and yet no women are represented on our bank notes? Of course Canadian women don't see that they have a place in this country. In order to address inequities across the spectrum, women need to see WOMEN in places of power and honour. Pamela Fitch, Ottawa

  • I cannot believe it is 2013 and we need to Petition for women to be on bank notes. Men and women should have the same recognition. CherylHarris-Taylor, Toronto

  • It is important because invisibility is equated with unimportant in our culture. Many women have contributed to our country in many areas and endeavours. I cannot believe that this is even an issue in the 21st century, in a democracy ... in my country.***** Maggie Keller Winnipeg

  • Why aren't female role models included on the new bank notes??? Why do we still have to make a fuss about inclusion?? Wendy Gillett Kelowna

  • Women have played a role in history, Who worked and kept the fires burning when men were at war....we need to be recognized as important figures in history. and we need to be recognized .as just as important as men. Let's see how absolutely open Mr.Poloz really is to putting women on currency.******* Pamela McGuire Nanaimo

  • The Bank of Canada honours significant Canadians but Only If they are not women? Who is not embarrassed by this closed-mindedness? Suzie Young, Toronto

  • We are half of this country's population. Why are we NOT already represented?? End of Discussion. Marina Howlett, Guelph

  • Women make up 51% of the population, they should be on 51% of the bills. Jo-Anne Dusel, Moose Jaw

  • As the Women's Critic for the NDP, I believe we must make sure our national symbols celebrate the full diversity of our country and the contributions to its history made by people of all genders, ages, religions and ethnicities. Mylene Freeman, Mirabel

  • The efforts and struggles of women, as much as men, made this country what it is today - inclusive, free, pursuant of equality - and deserve to be recognized by something as symbolic of their value as our currency.Grant Peters, Ottawa

    Idola Saint-Jean

    Idola Saint-Jean, a feminist who was a leader in the fight for equal rights of women in Quebec.

Read more about amazing women in Canadian history in these two popular books:

100 Canadian Heroines
100 More Canadian Heroines

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