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Ursulines in Canada

The Ursulines are a Roman Catholic female religious order devoted to girls’ education. The order has been in Canada since Ursuline nun Marie de l’Incarnation arrived in New France in 1639. Although initially focused on education and missionary work with Indigenous girls, the Ursulines gradually shifted their vocation toward educating French Canadian girls. With geographic and membership expansion from the 18th to the 20th century, the Ursulines established themselves as a major force in girls’ education, especially in Quebec. The Ursulines opened the first monastery in New France and the first school for girls in North America (see Ursuline Monastery).

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Anna Leonowens

Anna Harriette Edwards Leonowens (born 6 November 1831 in Ahmadnagar, India; died 19 January 1915 in Montreal, Quebec). Anna Leonowens was an educator, author and lecturer who became famous as the British governess to the wives and children of King Mongkut (Rama IV) of Siam (now Thailand) in the 1860s. After leaving Siam, she emigrated to Canada, where she advocated for women’s suffrage, taught at McGill University and helped found what is now the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She was the inspiration for Margaret Landon’s historical novel, Anna and the King of Siam (1944), and the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I (1951).

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Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, educator, publisher, abolitionist (born 9 October 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware; died 5 June 1893 in Washington, DC). Mary Ann Shadd was the first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada. Shadd founded and edited The Provincial Freeman. She also established a racially integrated school for Black refugees in Windsor, Canada West. She played an important role in giving Black people a voice and advocating for women’s rights. In 1994, Shadd was designated a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.