Women History Figures: Outstanding Canadian Women

women remember on stamps - outstanding Canadian women


In the month of March we are celebrating women from around the world, and here in Canada we have our own set of outstanding women to admire. While the women history figures list has grown extensively over the years, here are five highlights to help us appreciate the power of women that has helped shape our country to what it is today.

Emily Murphy, 1868-1933

At the age of 40, Murphy became a women’s property rights activist in Alberta. In 1916, she was appointed the first woman magistrate in Canada. Despite this achievement, the conviction of her first case was appealed on the grounds that women were not legally considered to be persons, making her conviction invalid. On top of this, women were not allowed to be appointed as senators. Murphy gathered four other women’s rights activists and approached the Supreme Court of Canada as well as Britain’s Privy Council. Known as the “Famous Five,” these women were successful in the Persons Case of 1929, a huge win for the women’s rights movement. They were given the first Canadian honorary senator status in 2009.

Nellie McClung 1873-1951

Nellie McClung was a leader in the fight to give women the right to vote. As a result of her efforts, Manitoba became the first province to allow women to vote, followed by Alberta and Saskatchewan. After her move to Alberta, she became the Liberal member for Edmonton in 1921 for the Alberta Assembly. McClung worked together with activist Irene Parlby, both of whom were also a part of the “Famous Five”(mentioned above) in the United Farmers of Alberta party addressing issues that were affecting women’s and children’s rights. McClung also became the first female director of the board of the governors of the CBC and was chosen as a delegate to the League of Nations in Geneva in 1938. 

Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1874-1942

Lucy Maud Montgomery is most known for creating Anne of Green Gables, but her literary works include an impressive total of 20 novels and more than 500 short stories and poems. In 1897, she started her teaching profession, which allowed her the time to start writing. By 1907, she had published over 100 stories. Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908.


Rosemary Brown, 1930-2003

Rosemary Brown became the first black woman in Canadian history to be a member of a Canadian parliament body when she was elected to the provincial legislature of British Columbia in 1972. Brown served in this position until 1986 and then went on to become a professor in women’s studies at Simon Fraser University. Throughout her life, Brown worked to promote equality and human rights, including working towards eliminating sexism in textbooks, a push to increase female representation on boards, and to stop discrimination against gender and marital status. Her works were awarded with honorary degrees from many universities, and she was selected as an officer of the Order of Canada.


Mary Two-Axe Earley, 1911-1996

Mary Two-Axe Earley was born on the Kahnawake Mohawk territory which was close to Montreal. She moved to Brooklyn and married an Irish-American. This was an unlawful act within her Mohawk community to marry a non-Aboriginal and so she lost her Indian status. When her husband died, she tried to return home to the reserve but was not allowed to return because she had broken the law by “marrying out.” For over twenty years, Earley fought to have this law changed. Her efforts paid off as she was successful in achieving this in 1985. This in turn helped over 16,000 women and 46,000 first generation descendants, where there would no longer be discrimination based on their status.


While there are many more shining examples of hard-working women in history, let these few figures listed here inspire you to push further, work harder and make changes for a better world. Let us all try to work towards equality and fairness to all because we are all created equal in the eyes of God.

For more fun on history, be sure to check our Eclectic Collection of Biography Resources.


This article has been written by homeschooling staff writers of The Canadian Schoolhouse (TCS). Enjoy more of our content from TCS contributors and staff writers by visiting our Front Door page that has content on our monthly theme and links to all our content sections.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).