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Kingston and Great Canadian Women

In 2017, 43 per cent of senior management positions in Kingston’s public and private sectors are held by women.

A number of Kingston women leaders, artists and visionaries have made their mark on Canada – and their legacies have shaped Kingston and for Canada. Here are a few remarkable Kingston women:

  • One such woman was Molly Brant, or Konwatsi'tsiaiénni, (c. 1736-1796), one of the most influential women in North American Indigenous history. Sister to Joseph Brant, the Mohawk leader, and consort to Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Brant was an influential political activist. She had great influence within the Mohawk community and played an important role as an intermediary between the Iroquois and the British forces in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). In its aftermath, she and her family, like other Loyalists, were forced to flee the newly formed United States of America. She settled in Cataraqui, on land granted to her by the British Crown with a large military pension for her service to Britain during the war. In Kingston, as it became known, she played a prominent role in the community and remained a vocal advocate for the rights of her people.
  • Agnes Maule Machar (1837-1927) also attained national prominence. She was influenced by her upbringing as daughter of John Machar, Minister of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Principal of Queen’s University. She had connections with intellectuals, artists, poets and religious leaders as she became a prominent local social activist. An accomplished artist, she submitted her work to the Upper Canadian Provincial Exhibition where, between 1859 and 1868, she won several prizes. Writing under the nom de plume, “Fidelis,” she penned poetry, novels, histories, biographies and children’s stories, earning her place in the realm of Canadian arts and letters. In 1887, one of her poems was awarded the prize for the best composition honouring Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and, in 1903, she was elected Vice-President of the Canadian Society of Authors. Her patriotism is demonstrated through her tribute to Canada in the stained-glass window in City Hall’s “Memorial Hall” dedicated to those who served and died at Sanctuary Wood in World War I:

Long may our Great Britain stand
The bulwark of the free,
But Canada, our own dear land,
Our first love is for thee.  

  • Agnes Richardson Etherington (1880-1954) is another noteworthy Kingston woman. One of the most important people in the cultural history of Queen’s University, she was a leader in the art communities of Kingston and of Canada. In the 1930s, she was influential in the creation of the university’s fine art program. Her home was a meeting place for local Kingston artists. It was bequeathed to the university upon her death in 1954. In 1957, under the direction of renowned Canadian artist André Biéler, her red-brick home was opened to the public as the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Focusing on innovative research and with a permanent collection of over 14,000 pieces, “the Agnes” is now one of Canada’s most respected art museums.

Kingston women have played an important role in the development of the city and the evolution of Canada.

Kingston is at the heart of Canada’s story - shaping our past and building our future.

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