International Women’s Day is a time to look at the achievements and contributions of women throughout history. Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023 is Every Woman Counts. This is a reminder that all women, from all ages and walks of life, have a place in every aspect of Canadian society, including in the economic, social, and democratic spheres. Canada has produced many strong women who have each fought in their own way for a space in their spheres of influence. In 1992, the Government of Canada designated October as Women’s History Month, marking the beginning of an annual celebration of the outstanding achievements of women and girls throughout Canada’s history. However, for many, March is the month to celebrate, so in honor of International Women’s Day, here are just a few Canadian women of note:
- Viola Desmond, who now graces our ten-dollar bill, was a civil rights activist and businesswoman in the 40s. She is best known for her refusal to leave a whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946 for which she was arrested and fined. Her actions helped spark the modern civil rights movement in Canada.
- Margaret Atwood is the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and many other works for which she has won numerous awards including the Book Prize and the Governor General’s Award.
- Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Indigenous Canadian American (Piapot Cree Nation) singer-songwriter and social activist. She has been active since the 1960s and many of her songs are about social and political issues. She has been an advocate for Indigenous rights throughout her career.
- Emily Carr was a painter and writer, best known for her depictions of Indigenous people and the landscapes of British Columbia’s rugged coast. Her work helped to define Canadian art in the early 20th century.
- Julie Payette is an astronaut and engineer who has flown two space missions. She then served as the Governor General of Canada from 2017 to 2021, becoming only the fourth woman to hold that position.
- Mary Two-Axe Earley was a Mohawk and Oneida women’s rights activist. After losing her legal Indian status due to marrying a non-status man, she advocated for change to the Indian act which until then had promoted gender discrimination and stripped First Nations women of their rights to participate in the political and cultural life of their home reserves. On June 28, 1985, Bill C-31 was passed to amend the Indian Act.
- Corrine Sparks was the first black Canadian woman to become a judge for the Family Court in Nova Scotia.
This is just a sample of the many Canadian women who have made significant changes to their world. On International Women’s Day, we celebrate their achievements and the achievements of all the women of Canada and around the world, who continue to work to make this a better place to live, thrive and function.
You can read, watch, learn, and listen to more examples of notable women in Canada and the US who have made their mark in history here.