Bobbie Rosenfeld Award

The Bobbie Rosenfeld Award is presented annually to Canada's best female athlete, as decided by a poll of Canadian sports journalists. The title was first awarded in 1932 and became known as the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award in 1978. It is named after Fanny “Bobbie” Rosenfeld, a multisport athlete, Olympic medallist and sportswriter. The poll was suspended between 1942 and 1945, during the Second World War. Golfer Marlene Stewart Streit won a record five titles between 1952 and 1963. The most recent recipient is golfer Brooke Henderson (2018).

Fanny Rosenfeld
Ethel Smith (left) and Fanny Rosenfeld (second from left) of Canada, perhaps at semi-final in the women's 100 meters at the Summer Olympic Games, 1928. Image courtesy of Library and Archives Canada/PA-151007.

Canada’s Top Woman Athlete

In 1932, the Canadian Press polled the country’s sportswriters for the first time, asking who they considered the country’s best female and male athletes of that year. “Sports writers across Canada were as unanimous as sports writers can be today that Hilda Strike of Montreal, … who ran at the Olympic Games last summer, was Canada’s greatest woman athlete in 1932,” announced the Globe and Mail on 31 December 1932. (Golfer Ross “Sandy” Somerville was named male athlete of the year.)

Hilda Strike
Canada's Hilda Strike celebrates her silver medal win in the women's 100m race at the 1932 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Since then, Canadian sportswriters have voted annually for Canada’s top female athlete, with a few exceptions. During the Second World War, sportswriters suspended the poll between 1942 and 1945, since “athletes at home could not rate as heroes while young Canadian pilots, paratroopers and corvette gunners fought for freedom in the shadow of death.” In 1950, sportswriters voted for top Canadian woman athlete of the half-century rather than top athlete of the year. Bobbie Rosenfeld topped that poll, beating out figure skater Barbara Ann Scott by only one vote.

The following year, the Canadian Press asked women editors to choose the most outstanding Canadian women in sport (golfer Marlene Stewart), literature and art (novelist Gabrielle Roy), music (violinist Betty-Jean Hagen) and public affairs (Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton), as well as a woman of the year (Whitton). Although this poll is not considered part of the history of the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award, it is noteworthy that Stewart (later Stewart Streit) was named top athlete by women editors in 1951. She went on to win a record five times as Canada’s top female athlete, as voted by Canadian sportswriters (1952, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1963).

In 1999, alpine skier Nancy Greene was voted Canada’s female athlete of the century, ahead of rower Silken Laumann, who came second in the poll. Greene also won as athlete of the year in 1967 and 1968. Other multiple winners include figure skater Barbara Ann Scott (1946, 1947, 1948) and speedskater Catriona Le May Doan (1998, 2001, 2002). In 2008, wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc became the first para-athlete to be named Canada’s top woman athlete of the year.

The title has been shared once: in 1971, pentathlete Debbie Van Kiekebelt and high jumper Debbie Brill received an equal number of voting points and were declared cowinners.

When Did It Become the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award?

Between 1932 and 1977, the Canadian Press simply announced the poll winner as Canada’s top female athlete. However, in 1978, they presented the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award to pentathlete Diane Jones-Konihowski. It was the first time that the winner of the poll received the award.

Brooke Henderson
Canadian golfer Brooke Henderson, upon winning the 2018 CP Canadian Women's Open Championship on 26 August 2018.

Bobbie Rosenfeld Award Winners

Year Athlete Sport
1932 Hilda Strike Track and field
1933 Ada Mackenzie Golf
1934 Phyllis Dewar Swimming
1935 Aileen Meaghar Track and field
1936 Betty Taylor Track and field
1937 Robina Higgins Track and field
1938 Noel MacDonald Basketball
1939 Mary Rose Thacker Figure skating
1940 Dorothy Walton Badminton
1941 Mary Rose Thacker Figure skating
1942 Not awarded (Second World War)
1943 Not awarded (Second World War)
1944 Not awarded (Second World War)
1945 Not awarded (Second World War)
1946 Barbara Ann Scott Figure skating
1947 Barbara Ann Scott Figure skating
1948 Barbara Ann Scott Figure skating
1949 Irene Strong Swimming
1950 Bobbie Rosenfeld *Athlete of the Half-Century Track and field
1951 Not awarded
1952 Marlene Stewart Streit Golf
1953 Marlene Stewart Streit Golf
1954 Marilyn Bell Swimming
1955 Marilyn Bell Swimming
1956 Marlene Stewart Streit Golf
1957 Marlene Stewart Streit Golf
1958 Lucile Wheeler Alpine skiing
1959 Anne Heggtveit Alpine skiing
1960 Anne Heggtveit Alpine skiing
1961 Mary Stewart Swimming
1962 Mary Stewart Swimming
1963 Marlene Stewart Streit Golf
1964 Petra Burka Figure skating
1965 Petra Burka Figure skating
1966 Elaine Tanner Swimming
1967 Nancy Greene Alpine skiing
1968 Nancy Greene Alpine skiing
1969 Beverly Boys Diving
1970 Beverly Boys Diving
1971 Debbie Van Kiekebelt Debbie Brill Pentathlon High jump
1972 Jocelyn Bourassa Golf
1973 Karen Magnussen Figure skating
1974 Wendy Cook Swimming
1975 Nancy Garapick Swimming
1976 Kathy Kreiner Alpine skiing
1977 Cindy Nicholas Swimming
1978 Diane Jones-Konihowski Pentathlon
1979 Sandra Post Golf
1980 Sandra Post Golf
1981 Tracey Wainman Figure skating
1982 Gerry Sorensen Alpine skiing
1983 Carling Bassett Tennis
1984 Sylvie Bernier Diving
1985 Carling Bassett Tennis
1986 Laurie Graham Alpine skiing
1987 Carolyn Waldo Synchronized swimming
1988 Carolyn Waldo Synchronized swimming
1989 Helen Kelesi Tennis
1990 Helen Kelesi Tennis
1991 Silken Laumann Rowing
1992 Silken Laumann Rowing
1993 Kate Pace Alpine skiing
1994 Myriam Bédard Biathlon
1995 Susan Auch Speed skating (long track)
1996 Alison Sydor Cycling (mountain bike)
1997 Lorie Kane Golf
1998 Catriona Le May Doan Speed Skating (long track)
1999 Nancy Greene
*Athlete of the Century
Alpine skiing
2000 Lorie Kane Golf
2001 Catriona Le May Doan Speed skating (long track)
2002 Catriona Le May Doan Speed skating (long track)
2003 Perdita Felicien Track and field
2004 Lori-Ann Muenzer Cycling (track)
2005 Cindy Klassen Speed skating (long track)
2006 Cindy Klassen Speed skating (long track)
2007 Hayley Wickenheiser Ice hockey
2008 Chantal Petitclerc Wheelchair racing
2009 Aleksandra Wozniak Tennis
2010 Joannie Rochette Figure skating
2011 Jennifer Heil Freestyle skiing
2012 Christine Sinclair Soccer
2013 Eugenie Bouchard Tennis
2014 Eugenie Bouchard Tennis
2015 Brooke Henderson Golf
2016 Penny Oleksiak Swimming
2017 Brooke Henderson Golf
2018 Brooke Henderson Golf