(A version of this article first appeared in Kingston Neighbours Magazine, March, 2023.)
International Women’s Day is March 8, and the 2023 theme is #EmbraceEquity. And what better way to celebrate this theme than to brush up on your knowledge of Canadian women in history?!
Take this small quiz with your kids and see how you do!
- Who was the first woman to become a Member of Parliament?
- Who was the first Chinese Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada?
- Who was the first Black newspaper publisher/editor in Canada?
- Who was the first Indigenous Governor General of Canada?
- Who was the famous Indigenous Canadian writer and performer Tekahionwake also known as?
- Who is the woman on our $10 bill?
If your family did not fare so well on this quiz, don’t despair: I have just the book series for you!
Published in 2022, the Amazing Women in Canada series highlights the accomplishments of 6 diverse women who have had a lasting impact on Canadian politics and culture. These high quality non-fiction books feature a table of contents, an index, colour photographs, a timeline and a glossary. Written at a Grade 4 level, I still highly recommend them for all ages because they are informative and accessible.
Titles in the series include:
Agnes MacPhail, by Kelly Spence — An in-depth book about the lifelong Canadian politician, Agnes Campbell MacPhail, who became the first woman elected to Canada’s House of Commons in 1921.
Jean Lumb, by Kelly Spence — This book tells the remarkable story of Jean Bessie Lumb, a Chinese Canadian businesswoman, restaurateur and activist who received the Order of Canada in 1976 for her community work to improve the lives of Chinese immigrants.
Mary Ann Shadd, by Kelly Spence — The many achievements of Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary are detailed in this book, including being the first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada in 1853.
Mary Simon, by Becky Noelle — The commitment of Mary Jeannie May Simon to Indigenous education and rights is highlighted in this volume. Bilingual in Inuktitut and English, Simon became the first Indigenous Governor General of Canada in 2021.
Tekahionwake, by Becky Noelle — A celebrated Indigenous performer and writer, Tekahionwake is also known as Pauline Johnson, author of one of my favourite poems, The Song My Paddle Sings. This book describes how she shared her Mohawk culture through her famous poetry and performances in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Viola Desmond, by Becky Noelle — This book highlights the life of Viola Irene Desmond, who became the first Canadian woman to be featured by herself on a banknote in 2018 — the $10 bill. As a businesswoman and mentor to Black women in Nova Scotia, Desmond became best known for her activism, challenging segregation laws in 1946 when she refused to leave the whites-only section of a movie theatre.
The prodigious commitment of these 6 women to fight discrimination and make a better, more equitable world for all is truly inspirational. I hope reading about them inspires you and your family to #EmbraceEquity this month!
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