To those who walked so others could run, we thank you! International Women’s Day is just around the corner and whether you take the time to honour a parent or guardian, a sister, a friend, a teacher or an artist, there is sure to be plenty of love, appreciation and admiration in the air.

In honour of March 8th and the incredible people who helped pave the way, here are 10 Canadians who made a difference or fought tirelessly for equality.

It’s an uphill battle, but many persist. 

Elizabeth Bagshaw

Even in the face of adversity, Elizabeth Bagshaw went to school to become a doctor. After graduating from the Toronto Women’s Medical College, she moved to Hamilton where she was actively involved in Canada’s first illegal birth control clinic. In addition to giving women the right to choose, Bagshaw also founded the Canadian Federation of Medical Women, inspiring and supporting those who followed in her footsteps.


An incredibly skilled interpreter and negotiator, Thanadelthur was essential to the expansion of the English Fur Trade. A member of the Chipewyan Dënesųłı̨ne nation, she also helped negotiate peace between two cultures and inspired many to be courageous.

Viola Desmond

The face of our $10 bill, Viola Desmond was a businesswoman and mentor who was arrested and charged with no legal representation after refusing to leave the all-white section of the Roseland Theatre in Nova Scotia. With poise, grace and the overwhelming support of the black community, Desmond’s case is credited as the catalyst for a larger conversation about racial discrimination in Canada.

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Nellie McClung 

An author, advocate, teacher and legislator, Nellie McClung is considered Canada’s most famous suffragist. A member of the famous five, she challenged the British North American Act and fought to declare women ‘persons’ rather than property under the law. In addition, she urged the government of BC to extend the vote to Japanese Canadians, petitioned the Canadian Government to open itself up to Jewish refugees in the 1930s, and often wrote about the need for equal pay and equal work.

Dr. Roberta Bondar

A woman of many titles, Dr. Roberta Bondar was Canada’s first female and also the world’s first neurologist to go to space. Since blasting off in 1992, she has dedicated her life to educating people about the environment through art and photography – publishing books and starting a not-for-profit organization.

Mary Two–Axe Earley

A pioneer and architect of the Canadian women’s movement, Mary Two-Axe Early accomplished some incredible things throughout her career. Most notably she was able to forge a coalition to prohibit laws that discriminated against Indigenous women. Later in life, she won the Governor General’s Persons Case Award for her contributions which advanced equality and rights of women in Canada AND received an honorary doctorate from York University in Toronto.

Thérèse Casgrain

A social warrior and radio host, Therese Casgrain was the very first woman to be elected as the leader of a political party in Canada. Credited for leading the campaign for women’s suffrage in Québec, Casgrain played a major part in winning women the right to vote on a provincial level.

Justice Bertha Wilson

After emigrating to Canada in 1954, Bertha Wilson was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Known for her humane stance on everything from discrimination, matrimonial property, child custody and public access, Wilson championed the rights of everyone, no matter their sex, ethnicity, or status.

Kim Campbell

Canada’s first and only female Prime Minister (1993), The Right Honourable Kim Campbell has spent her entire political career breaking barriers. While she resigned only 123 days into her term, she fought for a number of issues – most notably, women’s rights.

Mary Shadd Cary

The first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada, Mary Shadd Cary was born in Delaware, but later moved to Western Canada to pursue a career in teaching. After settling in (what is now known as) Windsor, Ontario, Cary set up a racially integrated school that was open to all, fought for racial equity within the education system and started a newspaper to promote emigration to Canada.

And there you have it! 10 iconic women from Canada who made history. Happy International Women’s Day!