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Harriet Tubman, née Araminta "Minty" Ross, abolitionist, “conductor” of the Underground Railroad (born c. 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland; died 10 March 1913 in Auburn, New York). Tubman escaped from enslavement in the southern United States and went on to become a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War. She led numerous enslaved persons to freedom in the “free” Northern states and Canada through the Underground Railroad — a secret network of routes and safe houses that helped people escape enslavement.
Frances Elizabeth Owen “Feo” Monck, author (born 1 August 1835 in Charleville, Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland; died 31 July 1919). Feo Monck’s brother-in-law was governor general Viscount Monck, and her husband, Richard Monck, was military secretary to the governor general from 1864 to 1869. When Lady Monck was absent, she acted as the hostess for viceregal social occasions, including the ball held during the Quebec Conference of 1864. She recorded her experiences in the book, My Canadian Leaves: An Account of a Visit to Canada in 1864–1865.
Sylvia Estes Stark, pioneer (born 1839 in Clay County, Missouri, US; died 7 November 1944 in Fruitvale, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia). Born into enslavement, Sylvia Stark was one of more than 600 Black Americans who emigrated to British Columbia in 1858 at the invitation of Governor James Douglas. She was one of the original settlers on Salt Spring Island.
Anna Harriette Edwards Leonowens (born 6 November 1831 in Ahmadnagar, India; died 19 January 1915 in Montreal, Quebec). Anna Leonowens was an educator, author and lecturer who became famous as the British governess to the wives and children of King Mongkut (Rama IV) of Siam (now Thailand) in the 1860s. After leaving Siam, she emigrated to Canada, where she advocated for women’s suffrage, taught at McGill University and helped found what is now the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She was the inspiration for Margaret Landon’s historical novel, Anna and the King of Siam (1944), and the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I (1951).
Madeleine de Verchères
Marie-Madeleine Jarret de Verchères (born 3 March 1678 in Verchères, Quebec; died August 1747 in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Quebec). Madeleine de Verchères is best known for her role in the defence of Fort Verchères in New France in 1692. She is remembered as a military heroine, and her image became part of efforts to recruit Canadian women for wartime work during the First and Second World Wars.
Alberta’s “Famous Five” were petitioners in the groundbreaking Persons Case. The case was brought before the Supreme Court of Canada in 1927. It was decided in 1929 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Canada’s highest appeals court at the time. The group was led by judge Emily Murphy. It also included Henrietta Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby. Together, the five women had many years of active work in various campaigns for women’s rights dating back to the 1880s and 1890s. They enjoyed a national — and in the case of McClung, an international — reputation among reformers.
Sarah Edmonds (Frank Thompson)
New Brunswicker Sarah Edmonds (aka Franklin Thompson), disguised herself as a man and served as a male nurse in the Union Army during the American Civil War. According to her autobiography, she also conducted spy missions behind Confederate lines.
The term “war brides” refers to women who married Canadian servicemen overseas and then immigrated to Canada after the world wars to join their husbands. The term became popular during the Second World War but is now also used to describe women who had similar experiences in the First World War. There are no official figures for war brides and their children during the First World War. In the Second World War, approximately 48,000 women married Canadian servicemen overseas. By 31 March 1948, the Canadian government had transported about 43,500 war brides and 21,000 children to Canada.
Catherine Schubert (born 23 April 1835 in Rathfriland, County Down, Ireland; died 18 July 1918 in Armstrong, British Columbia). Catherine Schubert was the only female member of the 1862 Overlanders, a group of some 150 settlers who travelled from Fort Garry (now Winnipeg, Manitoba) to the interior of British Columbia, following the Cariboo Gold Rush.
The Grey Nuns refer to six distinct Roman Catholic religious communities of women. Their origins can all be traced to the Sisters of Charity of theHôpital Général de Montréal founded by Marie-Marguerite d'Youville in the mid-18th century.
Marie-Anne Lagimodière (née Gaboury), settler (born 2 August 1780 in Maskinongé, QC; died 14 December 1875 in St. Boniface, MB). Marie-Anne Lagimodière accompanied her fur-trader husband, Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière, to what is now Western Canada. She was one of the first women of European descent in the area and they became some of the first settlers in Red River. Marie-Anne Lagimodière was grandmother of Louis Riel, the Métis leader of the Red River Resistance.
Henrietta Muir Edwards
Henrietta Louise Edwards (née Muir), women’s rights activist, reformer, artist (born 18 December 1849 in Montreal, Canada East; died 9 November 1931 in Fort Macleod, AB). Henrietta Edwards fought from a young age for women’s rights and education, as well as women’s work and health. She helped establish many movements, societies and organizations aimed at improving the lives of women, and was instrumental in passing Alberta’s Dower Act in 1917. She was also one of the Famous Five behind the Persons Case, the successful campaign to have women declared persons in the eyes of British law. However, her views on immigration and eugenics have been criticized as racist and elitist. She was named a Person of National Historic Significance in 1962 and an honorary senator in 2009.
Mary Ann Shadd
Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, educator, publisher, abolitionist (born 9 October 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware; died 5 June 1893 in Washington, DC). Mary Ann Shadd was the first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada. Shadd founded and edited The Provincial Freeman. She also established a racially integrated school for Black refugees in Windsor, Canada West. She played an important role in giving Black people a voice and advocating for women’s rights. In 1994, Shadd was designated a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.
Mary Riter Hamilton
Mary Matilda Hamilton (née Riter), artist (born 7 September c. 1867 in Teeswater, ON; died 5 April 1954 in Coquitlam, BC). Mary Riter Hamilton was a painter who exhibited her works in Europe and across Canada. Shortly after the fighting stopped, Hamilton travelled to Europe to paint First World War battlefield landscapes before they were cleared (see War Artists). She produced over 350 works in three years, which are a document of the destruction and devastation caused by the war.
Nellie Letitia McClung, née Mooney, suffragist, reformer, legislator, author (born 20 October 1873 in Chatsworth, ON; died 1 September 1951 in Victoria, BC). Nellie McClung was a women’s rights activist, legislator and author who is perhaps best known for her involvement in the Persons Case.
Marie-Joseph Angélique (born circa 1705 in Madeira, Portugal; died 21 June 1734 in Montréal, QC). Angélique was an enslaved Black woman owned by Thérèse de Couagne de Francheville in Montréal. In 1734, she was charged with arson after a fire leveled Montréal’s merchants' quarter. It was alleged that Angélique committed the act while attempting to flee her bondage. She was convicted, tortured and hanged. While it remains unknown whether or not she set the fire, Angélique’s story has come to symbolize Black resistance and freedom.
Nursing Sisters and the Costs of War on Women
We celebrate the heroism and mourn the sacrifices of our military through two world wars, and assorted other foreign conflicts and peacekeeping missions. Yet less attention has been paid to the related efforts of women — in particular, the nurses who have built their own proud tradition of service and sacrifice.
Marie de l'Incarnation
Marie de l’Incarnation, born Marie Guyart, founder of the religious order of the Ursulines in Canada, mystic and writer (born 28 October 1599 in Tours, France; died 30 April 1672 in Quebec City). Her writings are among the most important accounts of the founding of the colony of New France and the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church in the Americas. Her work as a teacher helped to lay the foundations for formal education in Canada.
Canadian Army Medical Corps Nursing Sisters
More than 2,800 trained civilian nurses enlisted with the Canadian army during the First World War, becoming the first women in the modern world to hold military commissions as officers. As members of the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC), the nursing sisters treated and cared for wounded soldiers overseas and at home. At least 58 died from disease or enemy action during the war.