Research Committee, Report 2017 – 2018

Creating the Memories and Celebrating the Legacy of the Bold and the Brave: Building the Archives of Women Scientists and Engineers in Canada

1. The first steps:

Both 2017 and 2018 have been very busy years on the research front. Most of INWES-ERI’s efforts during this period were focused on a large-scale project aimed at creating a Canadian Archive of Women in STEM, a goal which was successfully reached in June 2018.

As a reminder, the starting point of this project was a Workshop entitled Creating the Memories and Celebrating the Legacy of the Bold and the Brave: Building the Archives of Women Scientists and Engineers in Canada, held on September 11 and 12 2014 at the University of Ottawa.

This activity was organised by Monique Frize, Claire Deschênes, and Ruby Heap (INWES-ERI), in partnership with Catherine Mavriplis, professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering and holder of the NSERC (Natural Science and Engineering Research Council) / Pratt & Whitney Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for Ontario. The main funding for this scholarly activity was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (CRSH), through the award of a Connexion Grant. A total of 45 archivists, historians, women scientists and engineers, science journalists and policy makers came together to collection, preservation, development and sharing of records belonging to women in Canadian STEM.

The Workshop’s key outcome was the creation of a taskforce mandated to work towards the creation of a national archive that would help build the history of women in Canadian STEM and celebrate their largely unknown legacy (See INWES-ERI Annual Report, 2015, pp.6-7.)

Considerable time was subsequently devoted to the promotion of this initiative in different venues, with a focus on national and international conferences. In August 2017, Monique Frize, Claire Deschênes and Ruby Heap presented the project at the Women of Innovation Symposium organised by Mary A. Wells (INWES-ERI member) and Anne Millar in Vancouver, Canada. In November 2017, Ruby Heap discussed the project on a panel held during Montreal’s international Gender Summit.

In October 1917, Gail Mattson (INWES president), also presented the project to an international audience during the ICWES 17 meeting in New-Deli, India. On another front, Monique Frize proceeded to give her papers to the University of Ottawa, with Claire Deschênes announcing a similar transfer of her own records. Such a move on the part of our two colleagues had an important impact on the project’s development.

2. Launching the Canadian Archive of Women in STEM. June 19th, 2018

Increasing signs of interest for the project were expressed throughout 2017 and 2018. A fundraising campaign was launched by Monique Frize, Claire Deschênes and Ruby Heap, which yielded financial contributions from organizations such as NSERC, Engineers Canada/Ingénieurs Canada, l’AFFESTIM (Association de la francophonie à propos des femmes en sciences, technologies, ingénierie et mathématiques), and the FRQ (Fonds de recherche du Québec).


Launching event on June 19, 2018. From left to right: Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Ottawa, Guy Berthiaume, CEO, Library and Archives Canada, Monique Frize (INWES-ERI), Claire Deschênes (INWES-ERI), Edith Ducharme (student member of Affestim), Mona Nemer (Canada’s Chief Science Advisor), Ruby Heap (INWES-ERI), Mélissa Fortin (PhD student member of Affestim),  Leslie Weir,(University of Ottawa Chief Librarian), Catherine Mavriplis (NSERC / Pratt & Whitney Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for Ontario)
Launching event on June 19, 2018. From left to right: Ruby Heap, Claire Deschênes, Monique Frize.
A touching moment when Monique Frize presented her book to the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, at the project-launch on June 19th 2018.

    In the meantime, a succession of meetings with the University of Ottawa’s Chief Librarian and the CEO of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) resulted in the creation of a formal partnership between the University of Ottawa Library, LAC and INWES-ERI, which successfully negotiated the creation of the Canadian Archive of Women in STEM.

    The project was officially launched at the University of Ottawa on June 19th, 2018, in presence of the Honorable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, of Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Officer, of Guy Berthiaume, CEO of LAC and of Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ottawa.

    The following links provide examples of the media coverage dedicated to this important event and its outcomes:


    3. The Canadian Archive of Women in STEM

    Archives and Special Collections
    University of Ottawa Library
    Objectives and Main Features


    The University of Ottawa Library and Library and Archives Canada, in partnership with the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists-Education and Research Institute (INWES-ERI), is committed to increasing public access to and awareness of records documenting the work and the history of women in Canadian Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

    The Canadian Archive of Women in STEM initiative aims to preserve and promote records of significant research value, produced by women and the organizations that support women, involved in STEM activities, including artefacts and digital objects. These archives will complement the current archival material collected at the University of Ottawa’s Canadian Women’s Movement Archives, which already includes records generated by women engineers and scientists.

    This project also directly aims at preserving and providing access to professional material of women involved in STEM activities, artefacts and other digital objects. The main goal is to recover material that defines the work and stories of women in STEM and preserving them for use by future generations at University of Ottawa library.

    The project also has four key scientific and outreach objectives:

    1) Discover the motivation of women who choose engineering and understand what their perspectives were on barriers to career advancement and retention.
    2) Create a precious resource for historians who wish to write about women in STEM.
    3) Offer critical insights into the past and current status and role of women in STEM.
    4) Provide girls and women with role models who can inspire them to pursue such careers.Main Features: Exciting developments since the launch!

    On December 19, 2018, Marina Bokovay, who is responsible for the University of Ottawa’s Archives and Special Collections, to which the Canadian Archive of Women in STEM is linked, submitted this exciting report on the project’s progress since its launch on June 19, 2018:

    Our webpage is now available and acts as a launching place for those looking for the archives of women involved in STEM in Canada
    We have created a “how-to guide” to give guidance to women who have worked/are working in STEM who are interested in donating their records
    39 institutions have so far agreed to participate with more to come. We have contacted all university archives in Canada and are now in the process of contacting provincial and municipal archives to request their participation.
    284 entries are available to consult in our portal. Each entry represents a woman or organization or women who were involved in STEM fields
    Thanks to our partner INWES-ERI we have just hired a student to work on publicizing this initiative

    We have received very positive feedback from archival organizations who see the benefits of having their collections included in a nation-wide portal. As we enter the next phase of contacting other archival organizations, we expect the same response and an increase in portal entries. We will also be increasing efforts to publicize the portal in order to grow support and strengthen networks (for more details, see below *)

    Many thanks to all the institutions and partners who have supported this initiative.”

    * The University of Ottawa Library Portal:

    As a key facet of the project, the University of Ottawa Library is hosting a portal which aggregates all existing archival records relating to women in STEM across Canada. This portal will be a central resource for scholars researching women in STEM, and in Canada’s history of science and engineering more generally. It will also serve as point of contact with women or organizations currently involved in STEM who are thinking of donating their own records for posterity and will feature a practical resource on how to best organize and prepare records for donation to an archive. In this way, we will be highlighting past contributions of women in STEM while also capturing the current lived experiences of women in STEM for the benefit of future generations.

    Recent developments:

    I will end my report with two other recent initiatives that will most certainly elevate the project to another level:

    Marina Bokovay and her team hired a student (Zoë Sienna Argiropulos-Hunter) who has the expertise to help with the following key actions:

    • Create a blog to highlight relevant collections, individuals and events
    • Develop an outreach strategy with a social media component
    • Expand acquisitions by identifying women in other sectors who may want to donate records.

    In December 2018, INWES-ERI hired a web designer (Ginger Koolick) with the goal to better outline the various events and outcomes linked to the Project.

    Ruby Heap, Professor Emerita, Department of History, University of Ottawa;
    Member of Advisory Committee, Institute of Science, Society and Policy (ISSP), University of Ottawa.