Meet The 52
Exhibitions → The 52: Stories of Women Who Transformed Toronto → Meet The 52
Explore the full list of 52 remarkable women that make up the foundation of our multi-year project.
About The 52: Stories of Women Who Transformed Toronto
Women currently make up 52% of the population in Toronto. Join us as we bring their stories to life.
The 52: Stories of Women Who Transformed Toronto is an impact-filled multi-year project that celebrates the myriad of ways women have contributed to various facets of city life – in art, culture, politics, sports, technology, business, and more. To tell these important stories, this project has commissioned 24 exemplary playwrights to write 52 monologues – one for each transformational woman on our list.
Keep Scrolling to Explore our Full List of 52 Remarkable Women
Bianca Andreescu has raised the global profile of tennis for Canadians. As one of the youngest winners of a Grand Slam singles title, Andreescu is the highest-ranked Canadian in Women’s Tennis Association history.
Jill Andrew is the first Black and queer person elected into the Ontario Legislature. Her platform stands for race and social justice, healthcare equity, and the benefits of arts and culture.
Atwood’s leadership as a visionary writer, cultural influencer, and champion of literature and the arts continues to inspire Toronto and beyond.
Susan Bailey, head nurse of the Emigrant Hospital, was a front-line worker and one of the first healthcare professionals to respond to the typhus epidemic in 1847. Bailey herself contracted the fever in her dedicated service to her patients.
Phyllis Bomberry was a trailblazer for Indigenous women in sports. As a vocal advocate for racial unity within sports, her legacy lives on in Canadian sports today.
Roberta Bondar is Canada’s first female astronaut and neurologist in space. Her pursuits in the fields of science, medicine, and education continue to inspire generations of Canadians.
Laura Bulger, a Portuguese immigrant, was one of the first teachers of her heritage to work at the Toronto District School Board. Her passion for her culture shone through in her support of other immigrants, especially children, as she helped them maintain a sense of identity through the Portuguese language.
As the first woman to win a car race in Canadian history, Diana Carter was destined to trailblaze her way through a career at the top of Canadian race car driving.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary dedicated her life to the abolition of slavery, desegregated education, and women’s rights.
A leading figure in Canada’s cultural life, Adrienne Clarkson has transformed broadcasting, journalism, the arts, and public service.
Diaz’s unwavering advocacy and dedication have empowered care workers and shaped government policies to protect the rights of caregivers and domestic workers.
Kit Coleman was the world’s first female war correspondent. She delivered ground-breaking coverage on the Spanish-American War and was the first president of the Canadian Women’s Press Club, an organization which offered support to further women’s journalism careers.
Myrtle Cook McGowan was part of Canada’s first women’s track team in 1928 – setting the stage for a lifetime of sports leadership that transformed women’s professional sports in Canada.
Cathy Crowe, as one of Canada’s first street nurses, received the Order of Canada in 2018. Her documentaries platform the vulnerable, depicting her advocacy for the health and rights of the homeless.
As the first woman to graduate, complete a PhD, and teach in chemistry at the University of Toronto, Clara Cynthia Benson’s career of firsts transformed more than her scientific field.
Cheri DiNovo was the first minister to perform a legal same-sex marriage in Canada. Her support for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights shines through in her political work of passing inclusive legislation.
Through her trailblazing career of firsts, Fix championed community-led development and civic historical preservation that continues to influence Toronto today.
Emma Goldman dedicated her life to anti-war activism and social justice organizing. Her lectures on anarchist philosophies attracted thousands and fostered dedicated community organizing networks.
Slova Greenberg was a foundational advocate for healthcare, women’s empowerment, and elder care in Toronto. Today, her impact is seen through the success of Mount Sinai Hospital, the Baycrest Centre, and more.
Hodge de Silva’s commitment to storytelling and representation broke barriers in the Canadian filmmaking industry.
Rowena Hume co-founded the first birth control clinic in Canada and was the first president of the Women’s College Hospital.
Gar Yin Hune, escaping a war back home, toured Canada performing Cantonese Opera at the age of 19. Hune’s troupe’s performances held gathering space for flourishing Chinese-Canadian communities across various Chinatowns.
Jane Jacobs devoted her life’s works to fighting for cities that are designed for people and quality of life. Her advocacy and academic accomplishments shaped Toronto’s social and physical landscape as we know it.
Known as the “Wayne Gretsky of women’s hockey,” Angela James is known for her athletic excellence across Toronto, Canada, and the world. Her passion for the sport has propelled the popularity and recognition of women’s hockey.
Between operating a boarding home for Indigenous youth in Toronto and playing a foundational role at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, Verna Johnston’s community leadership has shaped generations.
Karen Kain worked as the Artistic Director of the National Ballet for 16 years. Kain began her career showcasing her passion and dedication to ballet by starring as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake and quickly thereafter becoming a Principal Dancer.
Cecilia Krieger was the first woman to graduate with a PhD in mathematics from a Canadian university. As a Jewish immigrant, she worked to translate Polish mathematics texts into English, making them available to wider audiences.
Modernist architect Blanche Lemco van Ginkel was the first woman and Canadian president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. She advocated for equal pay amongst male and female faculty members resulting in a 2002 University of Toronto pay equity settlement for female colleagues.
Frances Loring was a community leader who opened her home to Toronto’s arts community. Her art haven was recognized as the “most fascinating gathering place in the country” by A.Y. Jackson.
Jean Lumb was the first Chinese-Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada in 1976, honouring her efforts in changing immigration laws and helping save Chinatown.
Flora MacDonald Denison, president of the Canadian Suffrage Association from 1911 to 1914, was an unwavering advocate for gender equality in Toronto and beyond.
Canada’s first practicing female engineer, Elizabeth MacGill, advanced the field of Canadian aeronautics while leading a dedicated fight for gender equality.
Ausma Malik is the first hijab-wearing woman in public office in Canada. Her dedication to Toronto’s wellbeing is prominent in her championship of affordable housing and racial justice.
Anishinaabe Elder, Josephine Madamin, was a revolutionary leader in the fight to protect water rights for Indigenous peoples.
Lee Maracle revived Indigenous stories through her innovative writing. Working to “decolonize the feminine,” Maracle’s first book was among the first Indigenous-authored works published in Canada.
Hazel McCallion was appointed to both the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, recognizing her dedication to exemplary city infrastructure. Through her experience with the mayorship of Mississauga, McCallion helped turn the city into the 6th largest in Canada.
Tech entrepreneur and author, Saadia Muzaffar, is dedicated to empowering underrepresented communities to thrive in STEM.
With 9 career medals, Penny Oleksiak is Canada’s most decorated Canadian Olympian. She learned how to swim in her neighbour’s pool at the age of 9 and at 16, she won four medals at the Summer Olympics.
Jeanne Parkin is a proponent of public Canadian art. In 2006, the City of Toronto awarded Parkin with a Lifetime Achievement Award, celebrating her decades-long contributions to the visual arts scene of Toronto.
Bernice Redmon, appointed to the Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada, was a trailblazer in public health as the first Black Canadian nurse. Through her advocacy work, she paved the way for other Black women to work in Ontario hospitals.
As a medal-winning Olympian and a leading sports journalist, Fanny Rosenfeld’s multi-faceted career changed the landscape of women’s sports in Canada.
An unstoppable force, June Rowlands was the first woman to be Toronto’s Mayor, TTC Commissioner, and Chair of the Toronto Police Commission.
Rosemary Sadlier’s commitment to the recognition of Black History continues to shape the education around and commemoration of Black histories in Canada.
Jackie Shane was a transgender pioneer of 1960s soul music. Putting on emotionally compelling performances, Shane was an icon in the Toronto music scene for her commitment to authenticity in life and art.
Rosalie Silberman Abella was the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. She founded the concept of “employment equity” and shaped the first decision made under the 1989 Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Lillian H. Smith, the first children’s librarian in the British Empire, established guidelines for the inclusion and classification of children’s literature in Toronto libraries.
Born with quadriplegia, Judith Snow was Canada’s first person to receive individualized care funding from the Government. Her activism enabled an additional 600+ people in Ontario to receive funding.
Min Sook Lee is an industry-recognized filmmaker who advocates for social justice at the intersection of art and social change through her films and professorship at OCAD University.
Emily Stowe was a founder of the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association and the first female physician to publicly practice medicine in Ontario.
Kathleen Taylor breaks ground no matter what industry she stands in. An accomplished business leader, her career continues to break barriers and light the way for women at major corporate institutions.
Menaka Thakkar established Canada’s first professional Indian dance company in 1978. Thakkar blended different cultural dance styles to co-create a performance called “East Meets West” in which she bridged cultural divides.
Beatrice Worsley is recognized as Canada’s first female computer scientist. Her lifetime of research and work in the field were at the forefront of Canada’s burgeoning computer science sector.