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: December
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    December 2, 1989
    Audrey McLaughlin became the first woman in Canada to lead a federal political party, when she was elected leader of the New Democrats. She was voted in as a Yukon MP in 1987, and just two years later became leader of her party. After the NDP lost its official party status in the 1993 election, Audrey McLaughlin decided to resign as party leader. She became a member of the Privy Council in 1991.

  • Agnes MacPhail
    Agnes MacPhail, 1921
    (Kelsey Studio/Library and Archives Canada/C-006908)
    December 6, 1921
    Agnes MacPhail was elected as a federal MP, becoming the first woman in Canadian history to sit as a member in the House of Commons. Way to go Agnes! She had taught school in rural Ontario before becoming interested in politics, and joined the United Farmers of Ontario. As the first woman MP in Ottawa, Agnes had a tough time at first because her every move was scrutinized--but she became an accomplished parliamentarian who served as a fine role model for the other Canadian women who followed her.

  • December 6, 1989
    In a tragedy now known as The Montreal Massacre, an irate young men screaming "I hate feminists." gunned down female engineering students at the �cole Polytechnique. The madman shot 27 women, and 14 died. The federal government later set up the Panel on Violence Against Women, and December 6 is now The National Day of Remembrance and Action Against Violence Against Women.
    More from heroines.ca Time Travel.

  • December 8, 2012
    For the first time, the city of Victoria, British Columbia, celebrated Dr.Victoria Chung (also known as Cheung) Day. Born in Victoria in 1897, she graduated as a medical doctor at the University of Toronto. Dr. Chung/Cheung served as a medical missionary in China, where she served until her death in 1966.

    You can read the biography of Dr. Victoria Cheung (pages 102-105) in 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces by Merna Forster. Dr. Cheung's picture is on the cover of the book, at top left.

    100 More Canadian Heroines

  • December 8, 2016
    Viola Desmond was chosen as the first Canadian women to appear on the face of a regularly circulating Bank of Canada note � a new $10 bank note to be issued in 2018. Desmond, a successful Black business woman in Nova Scotia, became a civil-rights icon after challenging racial segregation. The selection of Desmond was announced by Bank of Canada Governor Stephen S. Poloz, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Minister of Status of Women Patty Hajdu. The move to celebrate a notable Canadian woman on the currency followed a successful national campaign led by historian Merna Forster and supported by more than 73,000 people who signed her petition at change.org/CanadianHeroines.

    Announcement of Viola Desmond bank note
    L to R: Bank of Canada Governor Stephen S. Poloz, Wanda Robson (sister of Viola Desmond), and Finance Minister Bill Morneau. (Photo by Merna Forster).

  • December 10, 2013
    Canadian author Alice Munro became the 2013 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature. Munro was the first Canadian woman, and also the first resident Canadian, to receive the prize. Her daughter Jenny Munro accepted the award on her behalf in Stockholm.

    Alice Munro

  • December 11, 2006
    Speedskater Cindy Klassen won the Lou Marsh Award.
    Watch a TV clip from CBC Archives.

  • Emily Carr, National Gallery of Canada

    A self-portrait of Emily Carr, ca. 1938. National Gallery of Canada.
    December 13, 1871
    Artist Emily Carr was born in Victoria, British Columbia. She became one of the most accomplished painters in Canada and also an award-winning writer.
    More in our Biography section.

  • December 23, 1983
    Jeanne Sauv� was appointed as the Governor General of Canada, marking the first time that a woman had been named to the post. Mrs. Sauv�, who was installed as the 23rd Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada in the spring of 1984, noted that this was "a magnificent breakthrough for women."

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