Four in ten Canadians unfamiliar with historic achievements of many of Canada’s most notable women

March 7, 2018

Four in ten Canadians unfamiliar with historic achievements of many of Canada’s most notable women

Toronto – March 7, 2018 – A Historica Canada poll commissioned ahead of International Women’s Day found Canadians feel there is significant room for improvement when it comes to learning about women’s history in this country.  


The poll, conducted by Ipsos, found only a minority of respondents could identify the achievements of such accomplished Canadian women as artist Emily Carr (37%), author Lucy Maud Montgomery (27%), and suffragist Nellie McClung (16%).  Four in ten say they are not familiar with the achievements of any of the 15 women listed (40%).  Awareness of these women and their accomplishments is higher within the regions they are from. 


It’s not surprising then that only three in ten Canadians (30%) think Canada is doing ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ when it comes to informing youth about women’s history. Less than four in ten (38%) think Canada is doing well when it comes to celebrating and commemorating women trailblazers (e.g. through statues and building names), and 34% feel Canada is succeeding in including diverse perspectives in women’s history.


“We were surprised to see how few Canadians can identify the accomplishments of women who have played important roles in shaping this country,” said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President and CEO of Historica Canada. “We hope to continue to inspire Canadians to learn more about our past, and how it has influenced our present.”


The survey also found Canadians are divided about the #MeToo movement. Roughly two in ten (22%) say it’s achieving its purpose and another two in ten (22%) say it’s too early to tell. Whether or not it’s gone too far is split along gender lines. A quarter of men (24%) say it has, compared to 16% of women. One in ten men (9%) say the movement hasn’t gone far enough compared to 15% of women.


Other findings include:

  • Six in ten men (60%) say Canada is doing well protecting and promoting women’s rights vs five in ten women (53%)
  • Under half of Canadians (48%) feel Canadian efforts to keep women safe from harassment in the workplace and society are ‘excellent’ or ‘good’
  • Roughly a third (35%) of Canadians say knowledge of Indigenous women’s issues specifically is ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ compared to 28% who said it was ‘excellent’ or ‘good.’
  • Notable Indigenous women were among the least likely to be recognized by Canadians, including Mary (Molly) Brant, or Konwatsi'tsiaienni (3%), Daphne Odjig (2%), and Kenojuak Ashevak (1%)

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


Full poll results are available here.


These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between February 23 and 26, 2018, on behalf of Historica Canada. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ from Ipsos’ online panel 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

Senior Communications Coordinator

T. 1-866-701-1867 x 261