Canadians fall flat on knowledge of women’s history: 55% fail true or false quiz

October 15, 2018

Canadians fall flat on knowledge of women’s history: 55% fail true or false quiz

TORONTO – Oct 15, 2018 – Are you familiar with Alberta’s “Famous Five” and the persons case? The accomplishments of Agnes Macphail and Thérèse Casgrain? The role of women in the Second World War? When it comes to women’s history in this country, most Canadians could use a refresher, according to a new Historica Canada poll conducted by Ipsos. The poll presented Canadians with 12 statements encompassing political history, arts and culture, and military history. More than half (55%) failed the quiz, with just 3% scoring an “A” grade.

Just four in ten Canadians (39%) recognized that Canada has never elected a party with a female leader to form the federal government, one of the most poorly answered questions. While Kim Campbell stepped in to the prime minister role in 1993, she never led her party to an election win. Surprisingly, people old enough to remember her tenure performed the worst at this question, with just 34% of those aged 55+ identifying this as true, compared to 43% of those aged 18-34.

“We were disappointed to see the results of this poll, and it reinforces the importance of sharing stories that have been overlooked throughout history,” said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President and CEO of Historica Canada. “Historica Canada is proud to do so through our many programs, as well as the forthcoming Women in Canadian History education guide.”

Two thirds of Canadians (65%) recognized Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Lucy Maud Montgomery as some of Canada’s best-known authors, the most correctly answered question on the quiz. Margaret Atwood also made an appearance as one of the women Canadians would most like to have a meal with (4%), topped only by Celine Dion (10%) and Shania Twain (6%)

The online survey of more than 1,000 respondents found those in Manitoba Saskatchewan, and Atlantic provinces performed best, with a pass rate of 55%, compared to the 45% average.  

Other findings include:

  • In the Atlantic provinces, seven in ten (70%) knew that in 1929 Alberta's "Famous Five" succeeded in their fight to have women considered "persons" under the law, compared to 52% overall and just 55% in Alberta itself
  • Six in ten Quebecers (62%) recognized that Thérèse Casgrain led the campaign for women's suffrage in Quebec, where women won the right to vote provincially in 1940, compared to 44% overall
  • Overall older Canadians performed best with more than half of those aged 55+ (52%) scoring a passing grade
  • Location often played a role in which Canadian woman people would choose to have a meal with: Emily Carr was mentioned by 7% of B.C. compared to 2% overall, Viola Desmond was named by 7% of the Atlantic region compared to 1% overall and Celine Dion was most popular in Quebec (15%) compared to 10% overall 

Historica Canada offers programs you can use to explore, learn, and reflect on our history and what it means to be Canadian.  

Full survey results available here.

For this survey, a sample of 1,003 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.


For more information:

Andrea Hall

Assistant Manager, Communications and Programs

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Eric Lazure

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

1-866-701-1867 x 271