Knowledge Center

Firsts in Business

  • Barbara G. Stymiest: First woman to be President and Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto Stock Exchange; First woman president of a North American stock exchange (1999)1
  • Sheila Fraser: First woman Auditor General of Canada (2001)2
  • Linda Cook: First woman to lead a major Canadian integrated oil and gas company, Shell Canada Ltd (2003)3

Firsts in Their Professions

  • Jeanne Mance: First lay nurse to practise in North America. Established the first hospital in Montreal - the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal (1644)4
  • Emily Howard Stowe: First Canadian woman to practice medicine in Canada (1867)5
  • Harriet Brooks: First Canadian woman nuclear physicist (1888)6
  • Clara Brett Martin: First Canadian woman barrister (1899)7
  • Roberta Lynn Bondar: Canada’s first woman astronaut (1992)8
  • Henriette Bourque: First woman lawyer hired by the Department of Justice (1939)9

Firsts in Government

  • Agnes Campbell Macphail: First woman elected to the House of Commons as a Member of the Canadian Parliament (1921)10
  • Cairine Reay Mackay Wilson: First woman Senator (1930)11
  • Ellen Louks Fairclough: First woman Minister in the federal Cabinet (1950)12
  • Thérèse Casgrain: First woman to head a provincial political party (1951)13
  • Muriel McQueen Fergusson: First woman to be appointed as Speaker of the Senate (1972)14
  • Pauline McGibbon: First woman Lieutenant Governor (1974)15
  • Ione Christensen: First woman Territorial Commissioner (1979)17Bertha Wilson: First woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada (1982)16
  • Joyce Fairbairn: First woman Leader of the Government in the Senate (1984)17
  • Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé: First woman to appointed Governor General of Canada (1984); First woman speaker of the House of Commons (1980)18
  • Audrey McLaughlin: First woman to head a Canadian federal political party (1989)19
  • Andrée Champagne: First woman Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons (1990)20
  • Nellie J. Cournoyea: First aboriginal premier (1991)21
  • Catherine Callbeck: First woman elected Premier of a province (1993)22
  • Sheila Maureen Copps: First woman Deputy Prime Minister (1993)23
  • Jean Augustine: First black woman elected to the House of Commons (1993)24
  • Kim Campbell: First woman elected as leader of the PC Party (1993) first woman Prime Minister of Canada (1993)25
  • Beverley McLachlin: First woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (2000)26
  • Rosemary Brown: First Black Woman Elected to a Canadian Provincial Legislature (1972) and First Black Woman to Run for the Leadership of a Canadian Federal Political Party (1975)27

Firsts for Women in Education

  • Grace Annie Lockhart: First woman in Canada to receive a university degree (1875)28
  • Emma Baker and Clara Benson: First women to have received a Ph.D. from a Canadian university (1903)29
  • Carrie Matilda Derick: First woman professor at an university in Canada (1912)30
  • Elizabeth Muriel Gregory MacGill: First woman to receive an Electrical Engineering degree in Canada (1927) and the first woman aircraft designer in the world (1938)31

First Rights

  • Participate in Canada’s armed forces and auxiliary services war effort. (1914)32
  • Vote in Manitoba’s provincial elections (1916)33
  • Vote in Federal elections (1918)34
  • Recognized as persons under the law (1929)35
  • Canadian Human Rights Act gave "equal pay for work of equal value" right to all persons (1978).36
  • Equality of the sexes included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982).37