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11 Canadian Women Who Were 'Firsts' In Their Fields

And here are their major achievements.

Women in Canada have come a long way.

Taking up challenges in the fields of politics, medicine and social justice, women have worked (and continue to work) twice as hard for their place in society. And although we've seen historic changes like electing the first gender-balanced ministerial team in 2015, we still have a long way to go in terms of equality and diversity in politics, the pay gap and more.

But for Canada Day, it's time to look at the women who did make a difference.

To celebrate our country's 149th birthday, we took a glimpse at some incredible women who were firsts in their own respective fields. From the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature to the first unofficial female police officer in Nova Scotia, check out our list of 11 notable women who made Canadian history, with illustrations by Justine Marimla.

Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments below.

Justine Marimla
Adrienne Clarkson

The First: Person of colour to be appointed Governor General, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. Clarkson took office from 1999 to 2005.

Notable achievement: In 2007, she became Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, making her the first Canadian to receive this title.

Get to know her more: Today, the 77-year-old works with the Institute For Canadian Citizenship and has written several books including a memoir and a piece about Canadian immigrants.
Joe Scarnici via Getty Images
Lilly Singh a.k.a. SuperWoman

The First: Canadian woman and first South Asian Canadian to be named one of Forbes magazine's highest earning YouTubers in 2015. Superwoman earned a total of $2.5 million.

Notable achievement: In February, the 27-year-old Scarborough, Ont.-native released her first film "A Trip To Unicorn Island" about her 30-city world tour.

Get to know her more: Singh is still making hilarious YouTube comedy videos ranging from growing up with South Asian parents to thoughts you have on Instagram.
Justine Marimla
Elsie Knott

The First: Woman in Canada to serve as chief of a First Nation in 1952, according to the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society (AMMSA). Knott passed away in 1995 at the age of 73.

Notable achievement: She started an Ojibway language program at Ontario's Curve Lake First Nation school, which is still taught by her daughter today, AMMSA notes.

Get to know her more: You can read more about Knott and other female chiefs in Firekeepers of the Twenty-First Century: First Nations Women Chiefs.
National Archives of Canada/Wikimedia Commons
Mary Ann Shadd

The First: Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper (The Provincial Freeman) and the first female publisher in Canada, Black History Canada says. Shadd was also the first black woman to get a degree from Howard University and the first black woman to vote in an election. She passed away in 1893, aged 69.

Notable achievement: As an educator, abolitionist and one of the first female journalists in the country, she also wrote extensively on black men and women leaving the U.S. to come to Canada through the Underground Railroad, the Canadian Encyclopedia writes.

Get to know her more: The Toronto Sun has a great write-up about her other achievements and biography.
Justine Marimla
Alice Munro

The First: Canadian woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013.

Notable achievement: She has also won a Man Booker International Prize, as well as two Scotiabank Giller Prizes.

Get to know her more: With so many other book awards under her belt, check out some of the 84-year-old's popular titles here.
Canadian Press
Angela James

The First: Openly gay athlete and second black athlete to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.

Notable achievement: Known as the "Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey," James, 51, joined team Canada at the inaugural Women's Championship and earned a gold medal after making 11 goals in five games, the Hockey Hall of Fame writes.

Get to know her more: A hockey arena in Toronto's North York region has been named in her honour.
Justine Marimla
Rose Fortune

The First: She's considered to be the first unofficial female police officer in Canada, the Canadian Encyclopedia writes. According to the Annapolis Heritage Society of Nova Scotia, Fortune's direct descendent, Daurene Lewis, became the mayor of Annapolis Royal, N.S. in 1984, making her the first black Canadian woman to attain that position. Fortune died in 1864, aged 89.

Notable achievement: While she was never an official police officer, she was well-known in her community and also set curfews for the town's youth.

Get to know her more: A part of the province's history, you can learn more about Fortune at the Fort Anne National Historic Site of Canada in Annapolis Royal, N.S.
Canadian Press
Jean Augustine

The First:Black woman to be elected to the House of Commons in 1993, Women of Influence notes.

Notable achievement:Retiring at 77 (she's now 78) and dedicating a majority of her life to politics, she became Ontario's first Fairness Commissioner in 2007.

Get to know her more: You can check out this interview with Augustine and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights here.
Justine Marimla
Dr. Roberta Bondar

The First: Canada's first female astronaut and first neurologist in space.

Notable achievement: As a scientist, Bondar worked for NASA leading an international space medicine research team for decades.

Get to know her more: As a photography and an author, check out some of the 70-year-old's other work here.
Wikipedia Commons
Jennie Trout

The First: Canadian woman licensed to practice medicine, according to Historica Canada. She passed away in 1921, aged 80.

Notable achievement: Trout, as well as Emily Stowe (the first female doctor to practice in Canada), both broke barriers to allow more women to work in a male-dominated medical world.

Get to know her more: You can watch her Heritage Minute here — it's quite powerful.
Canadian Press
Anne Cools

The First:Black person to be appointed to the Senate of Canada and the first black female senator in North America.

Notable achievement: With several achievements and awards in her name, the 72-year-old was also named one of the 100 greatest Canadians of all time by the CBC.

Get to know her more: Currently, Cools is an independent senator, but was a candidate for the Liberal party for 20 years. Read more about her work here.
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