By: Alanna Sabatino
During the month of July, both Canada and the United States of America celebrate their birthdays; Canadians celebrate on July 1st, and Americans on July 4th. Much of what we’re taught in school and pop culture these days focuses primarily on the men who made history, however there are countless womxn who played equally important, key roles in the shaping of these two countries. Read on to dive into just a few of the trailblazing, brave womxn whose actions sparked movements and historic change:
Fearless Canadian Heroines
- Laura Secord
Laura Secord was instrumental in Canada’s independence when, during the War of 1812, she traveled 32 km (20 miles) out of American-occupied territory to warn British forces of the impending American attack on Canada. Although she has no relation to the chocolate brand, Laura Secord remains a Canadian hero even in the 21st century.
- Nellie McClung
Nellie McClung was one of the first female activists in Canada. Her fight? Women’s suffrage. McClung began fighting for womens’ right to vote in Manitoba in 1916, before joining a courageous activist group known as the “Famous Five” – a group of women who convinced the Canadian government and courts to finally recognize women as persons under the law in 1929.
- Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Mary Ann Shadd Cary may not be a common name in Canadian households, but she had a monumental impact on shaping Canadian society. In 1853, Mary Ann became the first Black newspaperwoman in North America, editing Provincial Freeman, a Toronto-based newspaper that gave a voice to Black people in Canada.
- Viola Desmond
Segregation affected men and women across the world, and Viola Desmond is the Canadian heroine that took a stand against it when she refused to leave a specific section of a movie theater in 1946. Her fight against segregation gained attention across the country. She quickly became a national figure and, in 2018, she became the first Canadian woman to appear on a regular Canadian bank note.
American Female Trailblazers
- Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States of America. In 1878, she and her co-workers presented an amendment to Congress that would give women the right to vote. And in 1920, it was her influence that persuaded Senator Aaron A. Sargent to introduce the bill that was ratified as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
- Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman is most famously known for her vital role in freeing slaves in 1849 via the Underground Railroad. Tubman risked her life for the freedom and safety of her peers, with her bravery helping to free hundreds of slaves during this period of American history.
- Barbara Jordan
Barbara Jordan’s résumé read lawyer, educator, politician, and civil rights movement leader, however her most historic role was being the first southern African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first African-American woman to give a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
- Sandra Day O’Connor
Sanda Day O’Connor helped shape the role of women in American society by becoming the first female justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, serving from 1981 to 2006. O’Connor paved the way for trailblazing female politicians such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg to help fight for womens’ rights at the highest level court in the country.