CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Canadian Women Firsts

History, Political Science
2 to 3 lessons
Using a variety of web-based resources, students research “firsts” among Canadian women and prepare and present a “Who Am I?” oral presentation about one woman for the class to identify.

Lesson Plan


Throughout history, many individuals have pursued a role that was considered non-traditional. Jeanne Sauvé was a woman of many firsts in Canada, whether as a politician from Quebec, Speaker of the House of Commons, or governor general. She was brought up to believe she could do anything, and so she followed the path that made the most sense to her. In this activity, students will examine other firsts for women in Canada.

The Task

Students will choose one of the following women (or other suggestions of your choice or of students' choice) to research:


Emily Murphy

Agnes Macphail

Cairine Wilson

Ellen Fairclough

Jeanne Sauvé

Kim Campbell

Roberta Bondar

Bertha Wilson

Louise Frechette

Beverly McLachlin

They will write a brief biography of their chosen subject, highlighting especially what firsts this woman is responsible for in Canadian history. One student from each group will act the biography in role and challenge the class to guess the subject.

Assessment Tip

Assess student work using the download sheet Canadian Women Firsts.

The Process

Students will work individually on their biographies, beginning at the topic Jeanne Sauvé, a Woman of Firsts on the CBC Digital Archives website. They can then expand their research to other topics on the website and to other online resources. When the biographies are complete, students form groups of three or four representing one of the women. The group will create an oral presentation that allows the presenter to act in the first person under the heading, "Who am I?"


Invite groups to present their role-play riddles and identify the subject of each. Ask: Are there any firsts left for women to achieve?

Have a class discussion about firsts in any group of people in Canadian society: firsts for aboriginals, for those with physical and/or mental challenges, for people of colour, and so on. Examine whether Canadian society is inclusive with its representative in the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada by looking online at the Parliament of Canada website.

Download PDF

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