Monday, June 25, 2018

Launch of the Canadian Archive of #WomeninSTEM - So what?

Commentary on the importance of the launch by Dr. Ruby Heap, Dr. Claire DeshĂȘnes, and Monique Frize

On June 19, 2018 the official launch of the Canadian Archive of Women in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) took place at the University of Ottawa - so what? That was a question that one of my most challenging and excellent history professors loved to ask because it makes you dig deep for the importance of the idea, thought or event and put it in its proper historical context to really determine its place in history.

Minister Kirsty Duncan speaks about the importance of the new archives.

So what is the place of the Canadian Archive of Women in STEM? Well let's start with some basic facts - always a good place to start:

  • The initiative first really got rolling in 2014 during a conference where social sciences and humanities researchers, librarians, curators, women in science and engineering and others sat down to determine how to preserve and promote the history of Canadian women in STEM. 
  • This was followed by four years of persistent and ongoing efforts by key leaders in the various fields and strong support from the University of Ottawa Library, Library and Archives Canada and the International Women in Engineering and Science Education Research Institute (INWES-ERI). 
Why was a unique effort needed? Why couldn't the existing archives handle this?
  • Our understanding of Canadian women's history in STEM has advanced a long way in the past 10 years, and we are no longer fully on an emergency "search and rescue" mission to find these women, but some of that work still remains to be done. The importance of women in STEM has often been overlooked, and even the women themselves have not always seen the value of keeping their records for posterity. The efforts of the team behind this initiative have included a large educational role to help women in STEM realize their value to Canadian history and understand that their records play a key role in the story of Canada. 
  • Regular archives hold some records, but they have been scattered across the country without any means to connect them easily. For example, I found that while the bulk of Elsie Gregory MacGill's papers reside at the Library and Archives of Canada, there are smaller fonds (collections) available both at the Archives of Ontario and the University of Toronto.
  • The new web portal provides researchers and interested persons a means to explore the range of women's records available and locate them with ease. This tool will help make the writing of the history of Canadian women in STEM much easier - as less time will be spent on trying to find the sources and more time can be spent on exploring their richness and bringing it to light.   
Why now?
  • All the pieces of the preparatory work have fallen into place. 
  • Women in science and engineering are continuing to play key roles in their disciplines, and they and their families are recognizing their role in history and supporting this effort. In fact, at the launch, Dr. Monique Frize was able to announce that the family of Claudette MacKay-Lassonde was in the process of donating her records to the new archive!

To learn more click HERE.
  • Women in STEM is in vogue ("Hidden Figures" the movie" etc.) and 
  • Women such as:
    • Her Excellency Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, 
    • Dr. Mona Nemer, Chief Science Adviser to the Government of Canada, and 
    • Minister Kirsty Duncan 
         are serving in Canada's leadership. Canada can boast about having a former woman astronaut             as the Queen's representative - that's pretty out of this world! 

How can I support this important initiative?
  • Share the information about the new archive.
  • Learn more about Canadian women in STEM.
  • Talk to women in STEM that you know and encourage them to share their records.
  • Encourage young women and girls to consider STEM fields as their fields too!

Monday, May 29, 2017

An amazing night with the CFUW! May 16, 2017

Over the years I have given a large number of presentations on Elsie MacGill and to a wide variety of groups.  Getting the story about Elsie out is something I truly enjoy doing, and having a truly engaged audience makes this endeavour that much more rewarding.  That was the case on May 16th with the Ottawa Canadian Federation of University Women.  In addition to a truly warm welcome, it was a pleasure to spend an evening with a group that was so keen to hear the story.  Moreover, a lively and intelligent question period followed and kept going right throughout the social time after the presentation.  

In a slightly different twist to this presentation, I explored Elsie's life from the concept of her being a banknote-able woman.  And, indeed she is - having made the shortlist for the new $10.  But, what does that mean?  It is relatively straight-forward to reduce any life to a serious of chronological facts - and when exploring historical significance at a surface level this degree of analysis is enough - however - as I argued that night this most interesting part is what happens before the facts, during the creation of the facts and after the facts - that my friends is where living occurs and those nuances contain the true richness of a life.  

There is nothing that warms an author's heart more than to spend time with readers and potential readers who are so excited to discuss a book.  It was a wonderful evening that left me truly energized!  Thank you Ottawa CFUW for a fantastic evening!    

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Queen of the Hurricanes at CFUW - Ottawa Book Club III - May 16, 2017!!

On May 16, 2017 at 7:30pm at Riverside United Church I will be giving a presentation about Queen of the Hurricanes.  This event is hosted by the Canadian Federation of University Women. 

Please RSVP by April 15, 2017 to Janet Riehm: or 613-744-7305



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Queen of the Hurricanes featured on Canada History's Canadian Women's History List

It was recently brought to my attention that Queen of the Hurricanes is part of Canada History's  Canadian Women's History book list!  It is one of many fascinating books on women's history in Canada that should all be added to your reading lists for 2017!  It is a great year to do it too...Canada's 150th!  

For more information see:  Canadian Women's History

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Elsie is on the shortlist for the $10 bill!

As many of you may know, Elsie Gregory MacGill has been put on the shortlist - of five possible women to be featured on the new Canadian $50 bill!  She is in good company as the list also includes four other prominent Canadian women (see below).  The decision is pending December 8th, 2016!!  Looking forward to learning who the winner will be!  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Queen of the Hurricanes & Second Story Press at the National Women's Studies Association Conference!

My publisher Second Story Press will be at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Montreal from November 10-13, 2016.
Of the books featured will be the Feminist History Society series, which includes Queen of the Hurricanes:  The Fearless Elsie MacGill and the newest book - a biography of Marion Dewar by Deborah Gorham!

The display will be at booth #401 in the Expo area.

Second Story will also be holding a reception in the booth on Friday, November 11th from 5:00-6:00pm. Anyone attending the conference is invited to join the press team for a glass of wine and to learn more about our books!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Excellent Time @ The 99s International Conference

Three days of book selling and networking at the 99s International Conference Trade Show have already come and gone.  It was an excellent opportunity to reach out to this community and to get to know some of the incredible participants.  Congratulations to Joy Parker Blackwood and all of the organizers! 

My thanks to all of those who re-connected, or shared their stories with me for the first time.  You are all living testimonies to the fact that the sky really is the limit when it comes to goal and dreams!  Thank you also to all who stopped by to let me know your thoughts about the Queen of the Hurricanes:  The Fearless Elsie MacGill, or to purchase a copy. 

If you enjoyed the book, please take a minute to rate it on Goodreads: 

 Here are some of the photos from the final day of the Trade Show:

Photo with Kaye Combs Moore,
Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter 99s

Photo with Cheryl Marek,
 Southern Ontario Director
Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA)

Photo with Marilyn Dickson,
First Canadian East Chapter 99s