A Guide to Women in Canadian History

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Hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, Reuters Photo.
.Latest News
News Archives 2009

Upcoming in 2009
    October is Women's History Month in Canada. Please let us know if you are planning a special event, and we'll be glad to promote it here!

    Lyn Gough of Victoria reminded us of the following anniversary: "This year marks the 80th anniversary of the "Persons Case", a legal landmark for Canadian women. On October 18, 1929, the British Privy Council reversed a Supreme Court of Canadia decision and declared Canadian women as "persons", entitled to be called to serve in the Canadian Senate. The successful petitioners were five Alberta women: Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung and Henrietta Muir Edwards. In 1979 the federal government inaugurated the Persons Awards honouring women who advanced the status of women in Canada. A youth category was introduced recently."

    Special Events for Women's History Month in Canada, October 2009
    • Emily Carr Tour
      Victoria, BC
      Sunday, October 4th, 2 p.m.
      Old Cemeteries Society presents its annual "Emily Carr" Tour at Ross Bay Cemetery with stories associated with B.C.'s beloved artist. Meet in front of Starbucks at Fairfield Plaza. $5 for non-members. Info at 598-8870 www.oldcem.bc.ca; old cem@pacificcoast.net

    • Presentation on Helena Gutteridge
      Vancouver, BC
      Wednesday, October 14, 2009.
      A special celebration at Vancouver's City Hall with a presentation on Vancouver's first alderwoman (1937), suffragette, social and political activist Helena Gutteridge, (1879-1960) by historian Irene Howard. Irene is the author of "The Struggle for Social Justice in British Columbia, Helena Gutteridge, the Unknown Reformer." 7pm. Free.

    • Presentation on Canadian Heroines
      Victoria, BC
      Greater Victoria Public Library, Oak Bay Branch
      October 18, 2009
      2:00-3:30 pm
      Historian Merna Forster will be presenting an illustrated talk about "Celebrating Canadian Heroines". Merna is the author of "100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces".

    • Mary Ann Shadd NAC C-029977
      Presentation on Canadian Heroines
      Victoria, BC
      Greater Victoria Public Library, Central Library
      October 20, 2009
      7:00-8:30 pm
      Historian Merna Forster will be presenting an illustrated talk about "Celebrating Canadian Heroines". Merna is the author of "100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces".

    • Ontario Women's History Network Annual Conference
      Ottawa, Ontario
      October 16-18, 2009

      Friday, October 16
      University of Ottawa
      7 pm - 8 pm
      Introduction to the Canadian Women's Movement Archives
      Véronique Paris, Canadian Women's Movement Archives
      8 pm - 9 pm

      Saturday, October 17
      Canadian Museum Of Civilization
      8 am - 9:45 am
      Persons Day Breakfast co-sponsored with LEAF Ottawa
      The Historical Context of the Persons Case
      by Dr. Constance Backhouse, University Research Chair, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

      10 am - 11am
      Bringing the Persons Case Alive in the Classroom
      Rose Fine-Meyer, author and winner of the Governor General's Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Canadian History
      Jane Haskings-Winner, author, teacher, and instructor, OISE at UofT

      11 am - noon
      The Role of Women in the Canadian Senate
      Cairine Wilson: Canada's First Woman Senator, Valerie Knowles, author
      The Senate Years: My Eight and a Half, Dr. Lorna Marsden, former Senator, and President Emerita and Professor, York University

      12 noon - 1 pm
      Networking Luncheon

      1 pm - 2 pm
      OWHN Annual General Meeting

      Nellie McClung statue
      Nellie McClung statue
      (Copyright Merna Forster)

      2 pm - 3 pm
      Activating Activism: Presenting Women's Political History at the Canadian Museum of Civilization
      Proactively Collecting Women's Political History, Jennifer Anderson, Assistant Curator
      Bringing Women Back Into the Winnipeg General Strike, Rhonda Hinther, Curator of Western Canadian History
      No Power Greater,Interactive Theatre performance, Mélissa Ferland, Dramamuse, Actor- Interpreter as Helen Armstrong
      Enliven Women's Political History with Theatre, Jennifer Boyes- Manseau, Dramamuse, Artistic Director

      3 pm - 5 pm
      Museum Visit

      Sunday, October 18
      Parliament Hill
      10 am - 12 noon
      Guided Tour of Parliament Hill and Visit to Famous Five monument

      For further information about the Ontario Women's History Network Annual Conference and to register, please contact: rosefinemeyer@gmail.com
      OWHN gratefully acknowledges the following sponsors: The Canadian Museum of Civilization and Senator Nancy Ruth

    • Ross Bay
      Women in Ross Bay Cemetery
      Victoria, BC
      Sunday October 18th, 2 p.m.
      Yvonne van Ruskenveld delivers more fascinating accounts of the women in Ross Bay Cemetery on her popular Women's History Tour. Info at 598-8870 www.oldcem.bc.ca; old cem@pacificcoast.net

    • Annual Persons Day Tea
      Victoria, BC
      The Silkroad Tea & Aromatherapy plans to hold its annual Persons Day tea on the occasion of the 80th anniversary. Details to come.For more info: lyngough@victoria.tc.ca

    • History of the Victoria University Women's Club
      Victoria, BC
      Thursday, October 22nd, 7:30 p.m.
      The Victoria Historical Society presents Audrey Thomas speaking about the 100 year history of the Victoria University Women's Club. James Bay New Horizons, 234 Menzies. Public welcome. Info at wl545@shaw.ca

    • Conference "Going Public: Cross-disciplinary perspectives on presenting women’s history"
      Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta
      October 22 – 24, 2009
      Organized by the Canadian Association for Women's Public History (CAWPH). For complete information and a registration form: Conference "Going Public".

    • Persons Day Breakfast
      Victoria, BC
      October 27
      LEAF announces that it will hold its annual Persons Day Breakfast with a founding member, Mary Eberts, as speaker. Details to be announced, but date is October 27th. For more info: lyngough@victoria.tc.ca

    Latest News

    • Famous Five Named Honorary Senators

      Famous Five article
      Eighty years after the Persons Case, the Senate named the Famous Five as honorary senators on October 8, 2009. It's the first time in Canadian history that senators have been named posthumously.

      As a result of a case launched by five Alberta women, the British Privy Council ruled on October 18, 1929 that women were indeed "persons" in the eyes of the law. They could therefore be appointed to the Canadian Senate. The five women responsible for gaining this important recognition were Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby. None of the women were named to the senate after the ruling.

      Retired journalist Catherine Ford came up with the idea to name the Famous Five as honorary senators, and the Famous Five Foundation lobbied the Senate to take action.

      “I thought, wouldn't that be just gracious of Canada as a country to say, 'These five women did so much for the women of Canada. Let's give them a singular honour,' ” said Ford.

      Senator Grant Mitchell from Alberta wondered what the Famous Five would have thought about the current status of women in Canada. "Women still bear the brunt of domestic violence, women bear the disproportionate share of poverty, and women earn 70 per cent of what men do on average. There are all these fundamental issues that still need to be addressed."

    • NUPGE Celebrates Women's History Month in October

      Women's History Month poster
      The National Union of Public and General Employees has created a wonderful new poster to celebrate Women's History Month in Canada this year. NUPGE in inviting anyone to distribute the poster, so just go to the NUPGE website to download it. NUDGE also produced an article that looks at the challenges still faced by Canadian women.

      NUPGE marks 'Women's History Month' in October.

    • Passing of Chief Viola Wyse

      Viola Wyse
      Viola Wyse, chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, died suddenly on August 17, 2009 after suffering a brain aneurism. She lived on a Nanaimo area reserve and died in a nearby hospital.

      The first woman to become chief of her reserve, Viola Wyse was praised for the many improvements made during her three years in the position. After graduating in accounting from Nanaimo Vocational School, she worked as an administrator in band offices for many years. She also worked for 20 years in the Department of Indian Affairs, beginning in the early 1970s. The chief was widely praised as a visionary of great integrity who was dedicated to her people.

      Article on Viola Wyse from canada.com.

    • Sainthood for Canadian Woman?

      As of mid August 2009 the Vatican is reviewing evidence that may result in a Canadian woman being declared a saint. Though it is more than 320 years after the death of Kateri Tekakwitha, a recent miracle attributed to the Mohawk woman has led to the review. Once the Secretariat for Beatification and Canonization looks carefully at the information, a recommendation will be sent to the Pope.

      Painting by Father Chauchetière

      Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) became a Christain despite strong opposition from many of her people. She is among the women featured in Merna Forster's bestselling book 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces.

    • Activist Joy Langan Dies

      Joy Langan
      Former NDP Member of Parliament Joy Langan died of cancer on July 31, 2009 at the age of 66. Born in Rossland, British Columbia, Joy began her career as a journalist. A fighter for women's equality, she was the first woman to serve on the executive council of the B.C. Federation of Labour. In 1988 Joy became an MP, serving for Mission-Coquitlam. After leaving politics she worked for the Canadian Energy and Paperworkers' Union.

      NDP leader Jack Layton gave the following statement on learning of Joy's death: "I am saddened by the loss of one of Canada’s great fighters for justice and equality – Joy Langan. Joy served the people of Mission-Coquitlam between 1988 and 1993 with passion and distinction and served our party with a lifetime of involvement. She fought tirelessly for the equality of women and unflinchingly for the eradication of poverty. I extend my deepest sympathies to her friends and family. While the country has lost a great social democrat, the party an advocate, her legacy will carry on as a testament to her commitment to build a fair and just Canada. To her we are forever grateful."

      Obituary of Joy Langan from The Globe and Mail.

    • Twins Sell Lemonade for Emily Carr Statue

      In mid June, 2009 the Victoria Parks and Recreation Foundation received a very special donation: a cheque for $22.20 for the Emily Carr Statue Fund, from two eight-year-old girls.

      Richards Sisters
      Chloe Richards (left) and sister Macy (right)
      (Copyright Merna Forster)
      Chloe and Macy Richards of Brentwood Bay, BC had learned about Emily Carr in their art class. The twins sisters loved hearing about the talented artist and her menagerie of pets, particulary the monkey Woo. The girls, both very artistic, even tried doing some oil paintings in a style similar to Emily's. The products of their work are proudly displayed in a hallway at home, and Emily would surely be pleased.

      Emily would no doubt be proud to know that the twins wanted to help ensure that she was remembered in her hometown (Victoria) with a larger than life statue. The girls were excited to learn about the Emily Carr statue project and wanted to help. When their grandparents planned a garage sale Chloe and Macy decided that would be a good opportunity to sell something to the bargain hunters. The enthusiastic pair set up a lemonade stand, selling doughnuts too, and surprised their mother by sticking to their venture for more than four hours. The girls were pleased to raise $22.20, and hope that other Emily fans will contribute to the fundraising efforts so the statue of Canadian heroine Emily Carr can be completed soon.

      More info:
      Emily Carr
      Emily Carr Statue in Victoria
      Make a donation to the Emily Carr Statue Fund

    • Payette to Return to Space

      On June 13, 2009 Canadian astronaut Julie Payette was scheduled to take off for the International Space Station. The launch is on hold because of a leak related to the gaseous hydrogen venting system, and the new target date is July 11.

      Payette will be travelling on the shuttle Endeavour with six male crewmates. Payette first visited the station a decade ago, and is eager to return. Liftoff will be from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The crew of the Endeavour will join six other astronauts who are already at the station, including Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk.

      Endeavour crew

      STS-127 Crew

      The crew will spend 16 days in space, and plans to complete the station's Japanese Kibo laboratory as well as complete six space walks. Payette will serve as flight engineer, assisting with the launch and landing. She is the team's expert on robotic arms, and will be responsible for some challenging robotic arms operations during the mission.

      "This will be particularly fun, of course," says Payette, " because I’m Canadian and this is our big contribution to the International Space Station so I look forward to come back on the ground and talk about it."

      Payette, 45, is the only Canadian on the crew of the Endeavour. A native of Montreal, she is married and has two sons (ages 4 and 15). She'll be taking a few Canadian treats to space, including some maple leaf cookies and smoked salmon pate .

      Julie Payette Biography on heroines.ca, including links to videos on YouTube.
      Payette returns to sounds and smell of space, Transcript of an interview with CBC's Alison Smith.
      Endeavour 'Ready to Go', Latest Space Shuttle News from NASA.
      Preflight Interview: Julie Payette, Mission Specialist, from NASA.

    • Munro Wins International Award

      Alice Munro
      The talented Canadian short story writer Alice Munro has been selected as winner of the Man Booker International Prize. Awarded for an impressive career in literary achievement, the British-based prize will be presented to Munro at a ceremony in Dublin on June 25, 2009. She'll receive a trophy as well as £60,000.

      Alice Munro, who is 77 and currently lives in Ontario, published her first collection of stories in 1968. The book won the Governor General's Award.

      Alice Munro: A Canadian who writes for the world, The Star.
      "Munro Wins International Booker", BBC News.

    • Call for Investigation into Disappearance of Aboriginal Women

      On May 13, 2009 MP Anita Neville asked the federal government to launch a public investigation into the disappearance of the large number of aboriginal women in Canada. At least 520 aboriginal women and girls are known to be "missing", most having disappeared in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. Is a national inquiry needed?

      More about this issue in The Star, which printed the article "The sad state of too many native women" on May 20, 2009.

    • Canadian Woman Takes Command of Warship

      Josee Kurtz

      Commander Josée Kurtz
      (Canadian Navy photo)

      For the first time in Canadian history, a woman has assumed command of a major warship. On April 7, 2009 Commander Josée Kurtz took control of the frigate HMCS Halifax at a ceremony in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She will serve as commanding officer of the frigate, supervising a crew of 225.

      Commander Kurtz was born in Joliette, Quebec. She recieved a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Ottawa and a Masters in Defence Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada . She joined the Canadian navy in 1988, following a complaint that resulted in the Human Rights Commission ordering the Forces to integrate females. Kurtz admits she had to prove herself as she climbed through the ranks, and is proud that the navy is much more open to accepting women.

      "I think it's a tremendous achievement that here we are, 20 years later, and somebody has been able to demonstrate that a woman can do the job equally as well as her male counterparts."

      You can read more about this story in The Star, and also watch a video interview with Josée Kurtz.

    • Filming Starts on New Carr Film

      Strait of Juan de Fuca

      Strait of Juan de Fuca
      (oil painting by Emily Carr)

      On March 23, 2009 filming began in Ottawa on a new documentary about the legendary artist Emily Carr. Carr's studio has been recreated for the documentary Emily Carr: The Soul Within, to be directed and produced by Michael Ostroff. Funded privately for a total of $850,000, the project will be developed by Ostroff and a crew of ten. The film is scheduled to be completed within a year, at which time it will be premiered in Ottawa at the National Gallery of Canada.

      You can read more about Emily Carr in our Biographies section, and also find out the latest on plans to build an Emily Carr Statue in Victoria.

    • Stamp to Honour Rosemary Brown

      Rosemary Brown
      Canada Post has announced that a stamp to honour Rosemary Brown will be issued in February 2009, during Black History Month. Rosemary Brown, a Canadian born in Jamaica, was the first black woman in Canada to be elected to political office. She was elected to the British Columbia legislature in 1972. Read more about Rosemary Brown in our Biographies section.


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