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A Guide to Women in Canadian History

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Women's History Month in Canada

We can do it

October is Women's History Month in Canada. Time to celebrate the many amazing women in Canadian history!

The Status of Women Canada is responsible for selecting the annual theme for Women's History Month, and announced that the theme for 2014 is Canadian Business Women: A Growing Economic Force. Canada will also be celebrating International Day of the Girl on October 11, 2014; the designation was made by the United Nations in 2011.

International Day of the Girl banner


100 Canadian Heroines Notable Women in Canadian History

So who are some of these important Canadian women that we should be remembering during Women's History Month? The book 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces is a useful resource for planning activities for Women's History Month in Canada. Historian Merna Forster wrote the book as a tribute to the many great women in Canadian history. Canada's first female prime minister, the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, wrote the foreword for this publication. (Available at amazon.ca.)

Due to popular demand, a second volume is now available. 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces features more great Canadians who should be celebrated. Astronaut Julie Payette wrote the foreword for this new book, which includes 125 wonderful illustrations. (Available at amazon.ca.)




Ideas for Celebrating Women's History Month

Women's History Month in Canada often seems to pass with little notice. A few events which energetic women plan and attend. And which relatively few people ever hear about.

You can help ensure that notable women in Canadian history are not forgotten. Here are a few ideas for celebrating Women's History Month in Canada - in October or anytime of the year!

  • Read a book about a notable woman in Canadian history - perhaps someone you’ve never even heard of!

  • Organize a special event in your community and/or encourage local organizations to do the same. Maybe a showing of films about some notable Canadian women or a special luncheon. Whatever!

  • Tweet about any Women's History Month events you hear about, post them on Facebook, etc. We will be glad to post your events on heroines.ca and Merna Forster's Author Facebook. Or tweet @MernaForster so we can spread the news about your event.

  • Create a video about a notable Canadian women you admire, and post it on YouTube.

  • Take a quiz to test your knowledge of women in Canadian history.

  • If you’re a teacher, you could develop a lesson on some of the contributions of women in Canadian history - where applicable to the curricula you have. Whether notable women in Canadian literature, examples of the works of art of talented female artists, etc. And if you want to share your lesson plans, be sure to send us an E-mail so we can include the link on this site.

  • Create an exhibit (physical or electronic) on the contributions of interesting women in your community and display it at your place of work or school, your local library or museum, etc. If you develop a website feel free to email us with the URL so we can link to your product.

  • Kitsipimi Otunna
    Kitsipimi Otunna, a Sarcee woman ca. 1903-1936 (NAC/C-006933)
    Try oral history. You can help document the history of your area by interviewing local women pioneers and recording their experiences on audio or videotape. If the women have interesting old letters, photographs, etc. of their experiences, you might suggest they give copies or the originals to an archives - or possibly let you scan them.





  • Develop a “walking tour” of places in your community where notable women have lived or worked. You could map out the locations, write some texts and find some pictures of the women and the sites. Then put the material together as a little brochure or an Internet site, or even a book if you collect lots of material. You could also organize a special event with a knowledgeable guide (yourself? or one or more of the pioneer women) taking a group to each of the historic sites on your walking tour. Then refreshments and a social gathering at the end. Could be a fund raiser or just for fun.

  • Discover your roots. Learn about the interesting women (and men) in your family tree by investigating the history of your family. Perhaps start out by checking some of the geneology sites on the Internet, and getting information from family members near and far. You might be surprised at what you discover!

  • Attend an event sponsored by the Herstory Cafe in Vancouver.

  • If you live in the Toronto area, check out the events organized by the Herstories Cafe.

  • Help commemorate a woman who helped make history, and make sure she is not forgotten. If you have discovered the existence of a woman who may be of national historic significance to the nation, check out the commemoration program of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. You may want to send in a proposal - but keep in mind the people have to have been dead twenty-five years before they can be considered! Unless they were a Prime Minister ...

  • Write a book.

    singer
  • Create a play, maybe even a musical about women in Canadian history.


  • If you belong to a book club, suggest that the next book discussed is by or about an interesting woman in Canadian history.

  • Guest speakers. Arrange for a historian, author, researcher, pioneer, etc. or someone who is an authority on a particular women in history, to speak to your class or the October meeting of your historical society, club , youth group, special interest group, etc.

  • girl Tell a story about an interesting women in Canadian history to a child. Check out our Kid's World book page for ideas.

  • Contact your local newspaper and suggest that they run a series of articles on the contributions of notable women in Canadian history. Encourage them to report on events which celebrate Women’s History Month. (I tried this without success, but perhaps if the papers receive enough requests they will take action...)

  • Contact a television station and suggest that they broadcast a special series of some of the existing documentaries about notable women in Canadian history during the month of October. Encourage them to promote Women’s History Month by special programming. (I tried this too, without success. Which is not to say that this isn’t a good idea - these broadcasts would be popular with female viewers in particular! We can get results if enough people contact the stations. And be sure to encourage the news networks to do stories, and cover any special events that occur for the celebrations.)

  • Visit a historic place associated with an interesting woman in Canadian history. This could be a historic site identified by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, your provincial or territorial government, your city, etc. Or perhaps it's a great historic place that should be preserved.

  • Save a historic site in your community. If you discover significant resources - whether a building, old photos, historic letters and documents - that aren't being protected. Accept the challenge of ensuring that the contributions of a notable woman are not forgotten.

  • Jeanne Mance
    Jeanne Mance, founder of a Montreal hospital built in 1645 (NAC/C-146129)
    Watch a movie, film, TV program, etc.about a Canadian woman in history. Check out our Films&Videos section for a few ideas.

  • If you're a school teacher or student in a class that is participating in the Heritage Fairs, do a project on an amazing Canadian woman and her contribution to Canada.

  • Make a film or video yourself! There are a lot of great stories about Canadian women that few people have ever heard about!

  • If you're a professor or qualified teacher of some sort, teach a course on women's history at your university or college, or continuing education programs in your community.

  • Sign up for a course on women's history.

  • painting Calling all artists: why not draw inspiration from the feats of some amazing women and use your creativity to tell a story through your sculptures, paintings, etc.

  • Write an article on an amazing woman for a magazine, a blog, your school newspaper, your company newsletter, etc.

  • If you're a joiner who likes clubs and organizations, join a group that investigates or celebrates some aspect of the history of Canadian women. Or create the group yourself.
The Creation of Women's History Month in Canada

Women's History Month logoBack in 1992 the Government of Canada designated October as Women's History Month in Canada after a successful lobbying campaign initated by Lyn Gough in Victoria, British Columbia. The project leaders were Lyn Gough, Katherine (Kay) Armstrong, and Kathy Blasco. Lyn Gough is a historian and author of a book about pioneers in the Women's Temperance Movement. Kay Armstrong was a recipient of the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case, and Kathy Blasco was a school teacher. Other Victoria women involved in the campaign were Sylvia Bagshaw, Catherine Draper, and Avis Rasmussen.

The Victoria women led a movement which sought the establishment of a Women's History Month in Canada to encourage greater appreciation of the notable contributions of women to Canadian history. October was selected because it was on October 18th, 1929 that Canadian women were first declared to be legally considered as 'persons', and therefore eligible to join the Senate of Canada.




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