A fight for women’s place: currency and culture on par


- Tara Sharpe

Merna Forster, executive director of the UVic-led Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History project, will receive a Governor General’s award at the end of this month in recognition of her successful national campaign to depict women on Canadian banknotes.

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Forster. Image by Darren Stone, courtesy of Times Colonist.
Forster will be awarded the 2016 Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media, also known as the Pierre Berton Award. Her campaign resulted in a petition of more than 73,000 names and a commitment from the prime minister to feature a woman from Canadian history on banknotes in 2018.

Forster is the author of 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (2004) and 100 More Canadian Heroines (2011), and created the website heroines.ca.

As Forster pointed out to Canada’s History, the national charitable society administering the award, there remains a large gap in knowledge of the history of important Canadian women: “In 2004, when CBC ran a contest to identify the greatest Canadian, the top 10 were all men. In 2015, when Canadian Heritage surveyed 12,000 Canadians to identify the top 10 Canadian heroes, the list was again all men. So things haven’t changed very much.”

The Berton Award is no stranger to Forster. In 2008, three years after Forster joined Great Unsolved Mysteries, the project won the Berton Award for outstanding work in popularizing Canadian history.

Another prominent UVic advocate for equity, sociologist Cecilia Benoit, was named one of six recipients of the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case this October.

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Keywords: gender, history, community

People: Merna Forster

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