Nfld. & Labrador

Canada's great women: Who's missing from the list?

Canada's History magazine has compiled a list of the country's most important women in their current issue but not one of them is from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Manitoba women led the way in 1916, thanks to Nellie McClung, resulting in the province being the first to grant the right to vote to some women.

Canada's History magazine has compiled a list of the country's most important women in their current issue — but not one of them is from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Melony Ward, publisher of Canada's History, said the list was created to mark the anniversary of the first women winning the vote in Canada. They are now seeking help from the public to add more names.

The magazine selected a panel of women, including Adrienne Clarkson, Michèle Dagenais from the University of Montreal, Charlotte Gray, a popular history writer, and several others to compile a list from which they chose their top 20 women.

Now readers can vote for one of 30 nominees or add a selection of their own.

Little documentation

"For a variety of reasons there are few records and I mean there are still more women we need to recognize and that's where we want people in Newfoundland to come in and help fill in that record," Ward told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"There's a website,, they can go there and you can either vote for one of the ones on the list, or you can put in your own."

It took more than a year for the group to decide on their top 20, and while an effort was made to document many of the women who have not traditionally made the history books, Ward said it's hard to make a list that's "perfect" and will please everyone.

"I only know that there are many, many women who contributed to local economies and raised children and salted fish and worked in factories and were involved in the war effort," Ward said.

"It's quite a diverse group, there are politicians, we've got quite a few artists on the list … so it's a real mix of people and the more traditional people you would expect that would be on this list like, Thérèse Casgrain, who was a politician and activist in Quebec."

Elizabeth Penashue has long been an advocate for the Innu people. (CBC )

Making the list

While the list includes well-known names like Nellie McClung and Lucy Maud Montgomery, there are also some that may not be so familiar, Kenojuak Ashevak, Annie Mae Aquash and Helen Armstrong.

Once the vote concludes on Feb. 21, you may see names like Cassie Brown, Grace Sparkes, Armine Gosling and Elizabeth Penashue added to the list.

These women all sparked change in Newfoundland and Labrador by breaking ground in journalism, politics, the arts and academic life.

Newfoundland features

There are however, a few stories to reflect this province on the magazine's website.

Canada's Pirate Queen is one feature — It's the story of Maria Lindsey Cobham, who Ward said, was a pirate with her husband on the west coast of the province in the eighteenth century.

"She's not in the magazine, we pulled that story out of our archives to go along with this … and for us that's going pretty viral," said Ward.

"She was described as a homicidal maniac, we weren't going to put her to the 20 great women list but she certainly was a significant woman at the time."

Others featured are The story of Labrador Inuit taken to European zoos and a story about Bell Island's role in the Second World War.

"We try to cover a real variety of stories and our history isn't always something we necessarily want to celebrate, there's things that happen but you've got to acknowledge them and understand them," said Ward.

You can visit Canada's History Magazine website to cast your vote or read about their features.