A Guide to Women in Canadian History

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Canadian Illustrated News, Aug.7, 1880
.Time Travel
.This Month in
balloons This Month in Canadian Herstory: October

October is Women's History Month in Canada - so let's celebrate the amazing women in Canadian history!

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  • October 1, 1883
    Canada's first medical school for women opened, thanks largely to the efforts of Dr. Emily Stowe. The Toronto Woman's Medical College was created to provide female students the opportunity to train without the discrimination and abuse they'd experienced in facilities open to both sexes. The school later changed it name to the Ontario Medical College for Women. Graduates included Dr. Annie Higbee, Dr. Emily Smith, Dr. Eva Fisher, Dr. Annie Cleland, Dr. Harrietta Denovan, Dr. Nancy Chenoweth, and Dr. Margaret Gordon.

    Dr. Emily Stowe
    Dr. Emily Stowe

    On October 2, 1883 another women's medical college opened in Kingston, due to the hard work and determination of Dr. Jennie Trout.

  • Nellie McClung
    Nellie McClung with son Mark
    in Edmonton, ca. 1910
    (Castor Studio/Library and Archives Canada/C-008482)
    October 18, 1929
    Canadian women were legally recognized as "persons" as a result of a ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. The Privy Council decided that Section 24 of the BNA Act included women as well as men, so Canadian women could no longer be excluded from sitting in the Senate because of their sex. October 18 has been declared Persons Days in Canada to mark this victory for equal rights.

    This important ruling was the result of a petition by five prominent Alberta women: Judge Emily Murphy, activist Henrietta Muir Edwards, and politicians Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby. These determined women are now known as The Famous Five and their important contribution to Canadian history is commemorated by monuments in both Ottawa and Calgary.

    Watch a one minute video about Emily Murphy, from Historica Minutes.
    Learn more about The Famous Five, from the Alberta Online Encyclopedia.

  • Madeleine de Verch�res
    Scene from the film "Madeleine de Verch�res", 1922.
    (National Archives of Canada PA-028623)
    October 22, 1692
    Teenager Madeleine de Verch�res responded to an attack on her home by Iroquois - rushing to defend the women and children living in the family seigneury along the St. Lawrence River. The fourteen-year old girl led the defence in a fort in New France until reinforcements came to her aid. Madeleine de Verch�res later gained recognition as a famous heroine for her courageous action in the battle, thanks in part to her own self-promotion.

  • October 20, 1873
    Nellie Letitia Mooney (McClung) was born in Grey County, Ontario. Nellie McClung became a notable activist, author and politician.

  • Annie Taylor
    Annie Taylor after her trip over Horseshoe Falls
    (With permission of Niagara Falls - Ontario - Public Library)
    October 24, 1901
    Annie Taylor became famous as the first person in Canada to survive a plunge over Niagara Falls - in a barrel that was padded with pillows. The sixty-three-year-old daredevil performed the stunt in a desperate attempt to make some money. Annie was a school teacher. Watch a video about Annie.

  • October 27, 1893
    The National Council of Women of Canada was formed in Toronto by a group of 1500 women "to enable the women of Canada to speak with a united voice on matters of public interest". Lady Aberdeen became the organizations's first president. The National Council of Women came to play a key role in creating some important Canadian institutions - including the Victorian Order of Nurses.

  • October 31, 1982
    Pope John Paul II canonized Marguerite Bourgeoys, an influential pioneer in New France and the foundress of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. More from the Congr�gation de Notre-Dame.
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