The Planning Department: Women’s History Month


When is Women’s History Month?

In 1992, the Canadian government designated October as Women’s History Month. October has since become an annual celebration of the achievements of women and girls throughout Canadian history. The month of October was deliberately chosen in recognition of a court decision made on October 18, 1929. The case, known as The Persons Case, resulted in a declaration stating that Canadian women were to be recognized as “persons” and granted the same rights as Canadian men in terms of political power.

1645 – Jeanne Mance founded the first Canadian hospital.

What can you do to recognize Women’s History Month?

There are many ways to recognize Women’s History Month. Here are just a few ideas:

• Take a look at the Women of Impact in Canada gallery. This comprehensive online gallery highlights women of note in STEM, the arts, politics, human rights, and “trailblazers.” (

• Check out the online Women in Canadian History: A Timeline to discover significant events in Canadian women’s history. (

• Attend and/or help to organize local special events or exhibits.

• Read about some of the significant women in Canadian history. The following titles could be useful in researching background information or providing a basis for classroom discussions.

1867 – Dr. Emily Stowe was the first Canadian woman physician to practise in Canada.


Great Women from our First Nations

by Kelly Fournel
Second Story Press
ISBN 978-1-897187-25-8 (sc)
$10.95, 84 pp, ages 9 – 13

Great Women from our First Nations is one of the titles in The First Nations Series for Young Readers. The book provides short biographies of ten women whose lives have helped raise awareness of Indigenous cultures in North America. From Pauline Johnson-Tekahionwake to Susan Aglukark, the author highlights women from a range of times and geographical regions.

1960 – All Canadian women were given the right to vote.
Her Courage Rises

by Haley Healey
illustrated by Kimiko Fraser
Heritage House Publishing
ISBN 978-1-77203-425-7 (hc)
$22.95, 127 pp, ages 12 – 14

This collection of stories gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of fifty women who helped make history in British Columbia and the Yukon in the 19th and 20th centuries. Each life story is summarized on one page with an accompanying illustration on the opposite page. The stories are arranged in categories: writers, photographers and artists, entrepreneurs, miners, adventurers, doctors and scientists, pioneers and homesteaders, healers, politicians, and athletes. The author has chosen a diverse assortment of women to highlight. From well-known women such as Emily Carr and Rosemary Brown to lesserknown people such as Frances Oldham Kelsey (a pharmacologist), the reader will discover fascinating stories of courage and strength.

1924 – Cecile Eustace Smith was the first Canadian woman to represent Canada at the Olympic Games.
Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island

by Haley Healy
Heritage House Publishing
ISBN 978-1-77203-252-3 (sc)
$9.95, 144 pp, ages 15+

Flourishing and Free dedicates a full chapter to each of the sixteen women highlighted in this book. The chapters are arranged geographically starting with Mary Ann Croft, a lighthouse keeper who lived five kilometres offshore from Victoria, to Pansy May Stuttard, who lived in Sea Otter Cove on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

1992 – Dr. Roberta Bondar was the first Canadian woman astronaut to travel into space.


The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR)

The CMHR is a national museum located in Winnipeg. A section of their website highlights the lives of five women who have worked to advance human rights within Canada: Jaime Black (The REDress Project), Marina Nemat (author and speaker), Viola Desmond (activist who challenged segregation), Huberte Gautreau (Francophone Acadian nurse), and Nellie McClung (activist, author, and politician).

Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons.
The Canadian Women Film Directors Database

This database is a bilingual research tool that includes bibliographies, filmographies, quotations, and other information about Canadian women directors and their films. The database was compiled by Margaret Fulford, a librarian at the University of Toronto. The resource has 1,699 filmmakers listed and the details for approximately 2,420 films. The database is free and accessible to all. It is also constantly being added to!

Women in Manitoba were the first to be given the right to vote in Canada. – A Guide to Women in Canadian History

This extensive website was developed by the Canadian historian, Merna Forster. The site includes:

• information about notable women in Canadian history
• information on groups of notable women (e.g., war brides, basketball teams)
• images and portraits of Canadian women
• lists of commemorative items honouring Canadian women (e.g., stamps, statues, currency)
• lists of books, films, videos, and other resources about Canadian women
• learning resources for educators (K – 12 and university)

1954 – Elsie Knott was the first woman elected chief of a First Nations community.


Brenda Boreham
Brenda has 35 years of classroom experience. She has presented workshops on literacy strategies, and has written a number of resources for teachers. She remains passionate about matching up kids with books.

This article is featured in Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Fall 2023 issue.

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