Our founding mothers: 8 trail-blazing women

Rosemary Brown (1930-2003)


  • First black woman elected as a member of a provincial legislature in Canada
  • First woman to run for the leadership of a federal political party (NDP) in Canada
  • Former chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and member of the Judicial Council of British Columbia


Mary Eberts


  • A constitutional lawyer who played a vital role in securing the current language of s. 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees one’s right to “equal protection under the law” and prohibits discrimination “based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
  • Co-founder of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)


Dawn Elliot (1955-2005)

  • Actively involved in early development of Lupus Canada, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of people living with lupus
  • Former president and board member of Ability Online, a charity and network in Toronto for youth living with disabilities and chronic illnesses


Nancy Ruth

  • First openly gay person to serve in the Canadian Senate, appointed in 2005
  • Co-founder of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
  • Former board member of the Economic Council of Canada, Canada Centre for Arms Control, The Canada-USA Fulbright Foundation, among others


Kay Sigurjonsson (1933-2016)

  • Founding member of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women
  • Former director of the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario
  • Former co-host of CBC Weekend, CBC-TV’s flagship series in information programming from 1969-73


Elizabeth Stewart

  • Co-founder of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, a specialized clinic for women experiencing violence
  • Former president of the Canadian Association of Women Executives, a networking organization connecting business women across the country


Julie White

  • Former CEO of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the National Cancer Institute of Canada
  • Worked for more than 25 years in philanthropy and was former CEO of Philanthropic Foundations of Canada


Susan Woods

  • Founding member of Raising the Roof, a national charity focusing on long-term solutions to homelessness, and chair of the board of directors for the St. Christopher House, now known as West Neighbourhood House, in Toronto
  • Former president of the board of directors for the YWCA Toronto
  • As one of the first staff members of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, she guided some of our early planning.