A Guide to Women in Canadian History

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100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces

"The term "weaker sex" should make one's blood boil after reading this book!"
Kim Campbell

100 Heroines

Author Merna Forster has created the ultimate guide to cool Canadian women from every corner of the country, featuring famous and forgotten faces in science, sport, politics, war and peace, arts and entertainment, and many other fields. Meet remarkable women in Canadian history, from the adventurous Gudridur the Viking to murdered Mi'kmaq activist Anna Mae Aquash.


ELSIE MACGILL became the first woman in the world to design an airplane and supervised production of the Hawker Hurricane fighter plane - but was never able to fly herself because she'd been crippled by polio.
DR. LEONORA HOWARD KING started working as a doctor in Imperial China more than sixty years before the famous Dr. Norman Bethune. She served forty-seven years and was made a Mandarin.
Sexy star MARY PICKFORD developed into a shrewd businesswoman; she was Hollywood's first millionaire by the age of twenty-four and became the first female movie mogul.

ISBN: 1-5502-514-7
$24.99 (paper), 288 pages
Published by The Dundurn Group
Available in bookstores everywhere
Buy from amazon.ca
Buy from amazon.com
Purchases from the links above will help support this website.
Buy from chapters.indigo.ca

Kim Campbell
Kim Campbell (NAC, with permission of Denise Grant)

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, first woman Prime Minister in Canadian history, penned the foreword for this publication about Canadian heroines. Ms. Campbell served as Canada's first female Minister of Defence, Minister of Justice and Attorney General before becoming PM.

*Don't miss the second volume, 100 More Canadian Heroines.

  • Valerie Pringle
    Valerie Pringle (reproduced with permission of V. Pringle)
    "How is it possible that I hadn't heard of most of these women and what they had done? If they could overcome the lack of opportunity, understanding, education, money and support and drive on to accomplish great things, so should we all. They are inspiring."
    Valerie Pringle
    Television broadcaster

  • "Seeking inspiration? You will find it in the remarkable lives, achievements, and 100% Canadian content in this collection of fascinating biographies."
    Popular Reading Library, Vancouver Public Library

  • "If you don't know who any of the following are—Isobel Gunn, Anna Leonowens (hint: Think Siam), Asayo Murakami, Mary Travers (not of Peter, Paul and Mary), Gudridur Thorbjardottir—then this is the book for you, or your daughter, or your son, for that matter."
    The Globe and Mail

  • "This is a terrific book--the rare reference title that should be read cover to cover. Every aspect inspires, beginning with the foreword by Kim Campbell (Canada's first woman prime minister) and continuing with the author's introduction and the sketches of 100 women who left their mark on Canadian history. This should be part of every women's studies curriculum"
    P.P. Philbin

  • "...a book to stir your dreams and your talents."
    Desmond Morton
    Historian, author, and founding director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

  • "...Heroines is fresh and informative, even to the seasoned feminist reader. I'd never heard of half of these women before--what a shame! This is a book of rich achievements, but more, it is a storytelling book about great characters."
    Penni Mitchell

  • "100 Canada Heroines is a quick and easy-to-read education in Canadian women's history. A book of encyclopedic biographical references, it is fresh and informative, even to the seasoned feminist reader...an exciting book of great characters."
    The Beaver, Canada's History Magazine
    April/May 2005

  • "This volume is a welcome effort to make the achievements of women in Canadian history better known...A must for all Canadian secondary schools and public libraries."
    Canadian Review of Materials
    The Manitoba Library Association

  • "Thank you for your exceptional work and for your commitment to acknowledging the achievements of these extraordinary Canadians. Your book is a significant contribution to our nation's historical literature and will benefit generations to come. In recognition of your talent as a writer and storyteller, I am pleased to present you with The Lieutenant Governor's Celebration of the Arts Pin."
    Dr. Lynda Haverstock
    Lieutenant Governor
    Province of Saskatchewan
    September 2005

  • "...engaging stories, wonderful photographs...a good introduction to Canadian women's history."
    Dr. Catherine Carstairs
    History Department, University of Guelph
    (From Canadian Literature, Autumn 2006)

  • "Not since Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party have we been invited to quite such a smorgasbord of women's accomplishments--this one Canadian. The sense of excitement and pride that Archibald Lampman expressed on first reading Charles G.D. Roberts' Orion, or finding "one of oursleves" capable of greatness, or the emotion American Alice Walker reported on discovering Black Foremother Zora Neale Hurston, which filled her with an inestimable "joy and strength and my own continuity"--this is the kind of luminous experience that awaits readers of 100 Canadian Heroines."
    Wendy Robbins
    University of New Brunswick
    CAUT Bulletin, October 2004

  • "Forster's smooth magazine style of writing moistens the dryness of historical writing for non-buffs and stirs a proud passion in the breast of any Canadian female... Every woman and every young girl you know deserves a copy of this book; and Forster deserves all the praise, for she, too, is a heroine for bravely going into dusty archives and rescuing the stories of these women's lives who should be models for all of us."
    Read the review article.
    Bobbie Smith
    Thursday Night Cafe

  • “... a unique blend of comprehensiveness, solid historical and archival research, and an approachable style that engages us to marvel at and aspire to the kinds of achievements attained by so many women who have lived in Canada but whose contributions have helped shape North-American society and the progress of our contemporary world.”
    Miléna Santoro
    Associate Professor, Women's and Gender Studies Program
    Georgetown University
    Washington, DC
    (From The American Review of Canadian Studies, Spring 2006)

  • "Merna Forster's new book provides wonderful portraits of Canadian women from (the)16th century up to the end of the 20th century...For the teacher of Canadian history, the book provides excellent written snapshots of women who have made significant contributions in Canadian society in a way that the students will appreciate and enjoy...a book that should be required reading for all Canadian history."
    Katy Whitfield, teacher
    Ontario Women's History Network Newsletter

  • "Whether used as a reference book or for bedside reading, this is a convenient compendium of information on Canadian women, and a tribute not only to the individuals who made the cut but also to a generation of scholarly research that has restored the lives of these women worthies to the historical record."
    Dr. Margaret Conrad
    President, Canadian Historical Association
    Canadian Book Review Annual

  • "Merna Forster has given us a hundred important lives to share, and a hundred wonderful phrases to think about. Best of all, this is just a start. Imagine adding your favourite heroines to the collection. And think how you, too, can become a heroine or a hero just by using your talents and your opportunities and refusing to be discouraged. This is a book to stir your dreams and your talents."
    Desmond Morton
    Historian, author and founding director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

  • "A book who's time has come, if not long overdue. Surely there will be another volume with more heroines. The 100 women chosen for this book are just the tip of a fascinating iceberg."
    "This book proves Forster's point: "Our history is coloured by amazing women who've done fascinating things." Read and enjoy these long-overdue-stories from Canada's rich past. May there be more."
    Laird Rankin
    Publisher, The Beaver-- Canada's History Magazine

  • "More than a who's who of famous Canadian women including people like Nellie McClung and Emily Carr, Forster's book includes many lesser known Canadians like (Hide Hyodo) Shimizu."
    Natalie Hanson
    Nepean This Week
    November 5, 2004

  • "Great Canadian women you haven't heard of"
    Read ten stories from the book 100 Canadian Heroines in an illustrated two-page feature.
    Saturday Observer, The Ottawa Citizen
    November 6, 2004

  • "Author brings stories of Canadian women to print...Former Black Diamond resident Merna Forster has spent the last two years researching great Canadian women for a new book she hopes will popularize their incredible stories.
    The Western Wheel
    Okotoks, Alberta
    November 17, 2004

  • "As I mentioned to you on the program, this would be an excellent book to have in the school system to let youngsters (and their parents) know about the women of this country in our past."
    Peter Anthony Holder
    November 2004

  • "Merna Forster's 100 Canadian Heroines is a celebration of the diverse contributions that women have made to the building of the Dominion of Canada."
    Ottawa Life Magazine
    November 2004

  • "We'll know Monday night whom the people chose as the Greatest Canadian, but which women should have made the Top 10 List? Merna Forster suggests 10 times that number--including mountaineer Phyllis Munday (left with husband Don)--in her new book, 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn Press, 288 pages, $24.99)."
    The Vancouver Sun
    November 27, 2004

  • "The term 'weaker sex' should make one's blood boil after reading this book," Kim Campbell writes in the foreword of this remarkable roundup. "The stories of these women entertain and inspire us, but more importantly, they contribute to changing the understanding that determines how societies define the roles of women."
    The Ottawa Citizen
    November 28, 2004

  • "Merna's book, 100 Canadian Heroines, features an inspiring collection of facts, trivia, quotes, and photos about an interesting group of women...They have accomplished so many great things by using their talents and opportunities."
    Read the complete report, on page 4.
    Barbara Evans
    Capital Carillon, Canadian Federation of University Women-Ottawa Chapter
    December 2004

  • "Hometown girl Marie Dressler has come to the attention of Nepean resident Merna Forster, author in her new book 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces. That humble Ontario cottage on King Street West is where Leila Koerber was born, the self-professed ugly duckling of a little girl who would later become Oscar-winning actress Marie Dressler."
    Cecilia Nasmith
    The Cobourg Daily Star
    December 8, 2004

  • "I think I have a new favourite book to promote! I work at Upper Canada Village and each summer I manage to work in references to books that I think some of the visitors might be interested in reading. This coming summer, 2005, school groups are going to hear about 100 Canadian Heroines."
    Margot Dixon
    History Interpreter, Upper Canada Village

  • "Forster offers a diverse selection (of women) and her research on all of them is impeccable. For an added touch, she ends each mini-bio with a lively quote from her subject ... Forster has done a superb job in making these forgotten women vividly real again."
    Books & The Arts, Calgary Herald

  • "These are the stories of the most notable women in Canadian history—something that should make everyone in Greater Victoria feel a little bit prouder. Why? Considering that the Capital Regional District accounts for about one per cent of the population of Canada, we do rather well, thank you, in this book ... When it comes to great Canadians, women don't make the CBC's top 10. This book provides plenty of ammunition to force a recount."
    Times Colonist (Victoria)
    January 2, 2005

  • "(Emily) Stowe is among those fêted in Merna Forster's 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn, 2004), a timely read on the eve of International Women's Day (March 8)."
    Homemakers (magazine)

  • "Author Merna Forster is a native of Alberta who has been discovering historical heroines from coast to coast during her travels."
    Delights/Book Excerpt
    Diplomat and International Canada

  • "Heroines forgotten no more...New book follows paths of Canadian female trailblazers"
    The Ottawa Saturday Sun

  • "Ottawa-based Merna Forster, a certified historian, has truly written the book on "100 Canadian Heroines". It is packed full of interesting, lively and yes, heroic stories that will have you reading each biography twice, just to make sure you didn't miss a detail."
    Sue Andreychuk

  • "Merna Forster's book is just outstanding. I was inspired by it over and over again as I read about each heroine. It is a must read."
    Margaret Cunningham
    Ottawa, Ontario

  • "Ottawa historian has the goods on 100 Canadian women who stood on guard for thee...tells the stories of Canadian women who throughout history have made important contributions to society."
    Winnipeg Free Press
    Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • After reading 100 Canadian Heroines, your heart will thunder with pride and courage so that you, too, will become a nation builder by addressing either small but important or massive, magnificent challenges. As Louise McKinney, one of the Famous 5 said, 'Dream big and act honourably!'
    Frances Wright
    Founder & Former President & CEO, Famous 5 Foundation

  • "Read your book and loved it. Thank you! A huge fan,"
    John Harris, Regional Coordinator, VoicePrint Canada

  • "Forster focused on women of the past who lived with great courage and who made their mark on the world... One of the courageous women included in the volume happens to be Annapolis Royal's own Rose Fortune, a black loyalist who became a successful entrepreneur and the town's first female law enforcer."
    Carolyn Sloan
    The Spectator
    Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

  • "This book deserves a place on your bedside table for inspiration, or on the family bookshelf for your daughters to dip into periodically as they grow up."
    Julie Horrocks, University of Guelph
    Statistical Society of Canada, Committee on Women in Statistics

  • "...a book to read with great pride and pleasure by all Canadians. I recommend this book as a good read for anyone interested in Canadian history..."
    The Old Cemeteries Society, Victoria

  • “...how wonderful it is to discover a book such as yours as it is a much needed and inspiring resource to myself and my students.” ”
    Maureen Hawryliw
    Teacher, The Linden School

  • "AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME......every school should have copies of Merna Forster's books to inspire and encourage young females!!! "
    Wally's Mom
    Vancouver Public Library, Community Comment

Author Biography

Merna Forster is an author and historian who is currently based in Victoria, British Columbia. She has also written a picture book called Children of the Prairie, which was published by Baico Publishing. More

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