Organization: Canada Post
Product: Brochure
Year: 1981
Designer: Muriel Wood


Publication copy

Emily Stowe, Louise McKinney, Idola Saint-Jean, Henrietta Edwards

Dr. Emily Stowe, the first Canadian woman doctor, was born in South Norwich, Ontario, in 1831. She began teaching at age fifteen and later graduated from teachers college with high honours to become the first woman principal of a school in Canada. After marriage and three children, Štowe decided to study medicine. She felt that female patients should have female doctors. She herself needed a higher income to support her three children and ailing husband. She received her degree from a United States medical school in 1868 and, because it was difficult for a woman to obtain a licence, practiced without one in Toronto until 1880, Stowe crusaded vigorously for equal rights for women, especially voting rights. She founded Canada’s first woman suffrage society.

Louise McKinney was born in Frankville, Ontario, in 1868. After her marriage she moved to Alberta where she worked hard for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and for woman suffrage, believing that once women had the vote, legislation would eliminate many of the evils that WCTU campaigned against. In 1917 she became the first female member of a British Commonwealth legislature. As an MLA she helped strengthen prohibition and improve conditions for immigrants and women. After her defeat in the 1921 election, she continued working for the WCTU, took part in the creation of the United Church of Canada, and along with four others, initiated the “Five Persons Case.”

Idola Saint-Jean was born in Montreal in 1880. She became a French language teacher and later strove to gain the vote for women in Quebec provincial elections. She helped found the Provincial Franchise Committee in 1922, and upon splitting with it, founded “I’Alliance canadienne pour le vote des femmes du Québec.” She also protested women’s inequality before the law. At that time, Quebec women were not even allowed to control their own bank accounts. In 1930 she shattered tradition by running in a federal election. Saint-Jean took many trips to Quebec City to persuade provincial legislators to much rude behaviour in the process. This right was finally granted in 1940.

Henrietta Edwards was born in Montreal in 1849. When she was twenty-six she and her sister founded the Working Girls Association, which they supported with their own money. It offered a boarding house, a reading room, classes, and meal services. After her marriage, Edwards lived in Alberta, where she campaigned for equal parental rights, mothers’ allowances, and rights for women. Through many years of research, she became an expert on Canadian and Alberta laws affecting women and children; even lawyers and judges consulted her on such subjects. Edwards participated in the “Five Persons Case,” together with Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy, and Irene Parlby. The case confirmed that women were “persons” and had the right to sit in the Canadian Senate.

The stamp designs are the work of Muriel Wood, and are based on portraits of these remarkable women, along with vignettes symbolic of their spheres of feminist activity. Thus, the design for Emily Stowe incorporates the old Toronto General Hospital; the Idola Saint-Jean and Louise McKinney stamps show the Legislative Buildings of their respective provinces, Quebec and Alberta; and the Henrietta Edwards design emphasizes her role as clubwoman and activist among her contemporaries. The typographic design is by Dennis Goddard.


The physical version of this product is part of the federal identity archive.