Women have been instrumental in establishing Canada as an inclusive country over the years. Every year during the month of March we celebrate Women’s History Month to commemorate the trailblazers whose contributions to society have made positive change in creating a more equal society.
To honour the historical and enduring vision of gender equality, we have compiled a list of female leaders, change-makers, and pioneers who have positively impacted society and life of people in Canada.
Grace Annie Lockhart
Grace Annie Lockhart broke the stigma around women in higher education when in 1875 she became the first woman in the British Empire to hold a Bachelor’s Degree. Her academic achievement made her a pioneer in women’s university education and initiated a new wave of empowerment for women’s rights to equal access to education. Lockhart graduated with a Bachelor of Science and English literature from Mount Allison College in Sackville, New Brunswick.
Widely recognized as an icon in the Canadian art world, Emily Carr was one of the first artists to make the spirit of Canada, its Indigenous Peoples, and its natural beauty the subject of her paintings. Carr is also a recognizable figure of the 20th century for her environmentalist stance on the negative impacts of industrialization on the natural world.
Emily Carr had a major influence on Canada’s art and culture, and continues to be an inspiration to many young artists to this day.
Viola Irene Desmond is one of the most well-known Black Canadian civil rights activists of the 20th century. In 1946, Desmond challenged racial discrimination when she refused to leave the segregated Whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Desmond’s courageous defiance of racial discrimination helped start the modern civil rights movement in Canada and provided inspiration to generations of Black Canadians in Nova Scotia and throughout the country. Desmond became a successful businesswoman and was a mentor to many young black women through her Desmond School of Beauty Culture. In 2018, she was named a National Historic Person by the Canadian government.
One of the most renowned names in the world of prose fiction, Margaret Atwood has been an inspirational figure and a staunch feminist since the mid-20th century. Her literary works contain an amalgamation of themes ranging from gender and identity, religion and myth, power of language to climate change and politics. She has won numerous international awards including two Booker prizes, Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Governor General’s Award, and the Franz Kafka Prize, among others. Margaret Atwood’s legacy goes beyond being just a novelist and poet, as she is also a famed literary critic, essayist, environmental activist, and inventor of her own remote-controlled book signing device.