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A Guide to Women in Canadian History

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Canadian Illustrated News, Aug.7, 1880
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This Month in Canadian Herstory: February
  • February is Black History Month in Canada, a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of notable Black women in our history. A few examples:

    Zanana Akande
    Zanana Akande
    Zanana Akande
    . The first Black female to serve in the cabinet of the Government of Ontario.

    Marie-Joseph Angélique (ca. 1709-1734). A desperate slave who fought for her personal happiness, but was hung in Montreal after allegedly starting a major fire.*

    Jean Augustine. First Black woman elected as a federal Member of Parliament.

    Addie Aylestock. Canada's first female Black minister.

    Carrie Best. Co-founded a newspaper called The Clarion, which became The Negro Citizen.

    Mary Bibb. Courageous anti-slavery leader who was co-editor of the newspaper Voice of the Fugitive.**

    Lucie Blackburn. A runaway slave who settled in Toronto and worked with her husband to become a successful entrepreneur.**

    Violet Blackman. Involved with Marcus Garvey in the founding of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

    Rosemary Brown (1930-2003). First Black woman in Canadian history to become a member of a parliamentary body.** More

    Measha Brueggergosman
    Measha Brueggergosman
    Measha Brueggergosman
    . Award-winning Canadian soprano.

    Anne Cools. First Black person in the country to be named to the Senate of Canada.

    Viola Desmond. A civil rights icon who stood up against racial discrimination in Canada.**

    Esi Edugyan. Talented Canadian author, winner of the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Half-Blood Blues.

    Rose Fortune (ca. 1774-1864). First female police officer in North America.*

    Hattie Rhue Hatchett. A musician who wrote a marching song for Canadian soldiers in the First World War.**

    Violet King Henry. First Black female lawyer in Canada, called to the bar in Alberta in 1954.

    Gwendolyn A. Johnston. Co-founded the Toronto Third World Bookstore.

    Jeni LeGon. A talented dancer, actress and choreographer with a long career in show business.
    Jeni LeGon


    Daurene Lewis. First Black woman in Canada to be elected as a mayor.

    Anne Packwood. Founded the Coloured Women's Club in Montreal.

    Micheline A. Rawlins. The first Black woman to become a judge for the Ontario Provincial Court.

    Betty Riley. First Black woman in Canada to become a television producer.

    Marie Marguerite Rose. A onetime slave who gained her freedom and ran a business in the Fortress of Louisbourg.**

    Beverley Salmon. First Black woman to became a Provincial Human Rights Commissioner.

    Mary Ann Shadd (1823-1893). First woman to publish a newspaper in Canada.*

    Glenda Simms. Became President of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women in 1989.

    Harriet Tubman (ca. 1820-1913). A conductor on the Underground Railway who led many slaves to freedom in Canada.*

    Juanita Westmoreland-Traore. First Black judge in Quebec.

    Portia White (1911-1968). First Black Canadian woman to become a famous singer.*

    * This woman is featured in the book 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces.

    ** This woman is featured in the book 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces. Just ask for the books at your local bookstore, or order online.

  • February 1963
    Fashion industry pioneer Marilyn Brooks opened her first boutique in Toronto: The Unicorn. See marilynbrooks.com for more information about Marilyn and her collections.

  • Lady Aberdeen

    Lady Aberdeen in Ottawa, 1894.
    (William James Topley/Library and Archives Canada/PA-027338)
    February 1, 1897
    Lady Aberdeen, wife of the Governor-General of Canada, and the National Council of Women announced plans for a special commemoration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee: the creation of an organization that became known as the Victorian Order of Nurses. The VON website.



  • February 2, 1897
    Clara Brett Martin became the first female lawyer in the British Empire. She set up a law practice in Toronto.

  • February 10, 2000
    Lois Hole became Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta. She was also the co-owner of a large greenhouse business, an author of gardening books, and a longtime school trustee.

  • February 10, 1908
    West Coast composer Jean Coulthard was born in North Vancouver. More about her career from the Canadian Music Centre.

  • Valentine's Day card

    A historic Valentine's Day Card c. 1911
    February 14
    Valentine's Day.

  • February 16, 1967
    The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was created by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. Ottawa-based journalist Florence Bird became the chairwoman. After public hearings were held across Canada, the commission produced a report with 167 recommendations relating to issues such as birth control, family law, equal pay and maternity leave.

  • February 19, 1897
    Born on an Ontario farm, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless founded the world's first Women's Institute in Stoney Creek, Ontario to support the needs of the wives of farmers. More about the organization from the official website of the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada.

  • February 21, 2000
    Dr. Lynda M. Haverstock became the 19th Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan. Born in Swift Current, Dr. Haverstock dropped out of school but later earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology as well as a Master of Education degree. Prior to her appointment with the provincial government, she taught at university and worked as a psychologist.

  • February 28, 1996
    Alanis

    For the first time in history, a Canadian won four Grammies in one year. Singer and songwriter Alanis Morissette won the awards for Best Rock Song, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Album and Album of the Year. Alanis was born in Ottawa, Ontario and released her first single at the age of 11. More about Alanis from her website.






  • February 29, 1860
    Mrs. Kwong Lee arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, becoming the first female Chinese immigrant to the land that became known as Canada.

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