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To celebrate Women's History Month 2002, Library and Archives Canada has prepared biographies highlighting the achievements of 23 women artists in Canada. These artists have worked in a range of media, over the last 150 years. Some are less known, others have national and international reputations.
As in other areas of endeavour, women in Canada have faced many obstacles in pursuing careers as artists and in gaining recognition for their artistic achievements. Marital and child-rearing responsibilities left little time or energy for artistic pursuits. Of those artists who remained unmarried, few could support themselves on their artistic earnings and therefore sought other forms of employment. Art education and involvement in professional organizations was limited in various ways. Women artists frequently chose subjects rooted in their personal lives and experiences, which ran counter to trends in mainstream Canadian art. Coverage of their work was minimal in the early standard histories.
In recent decades, ground-breaking work by scholars such as Natalie Luckyj and Maria Tippett have highlighted the talent of overlooked artists such as Helen McNicoll and Prudence Heward. Artists such as Marcelle Ferron, Joyce Wieland and Janet Cardiff have earned international acclaim for the innovative use of various media.
It is hoped that these biographies will inspire readers to explore further the work of these and other Canadian artists. Other biographies will be added to the site over time. A reproduction of one work of art by each artist has been included, as well as a portrait of the artist when available. For those who wish to learn more about these women, a list of Resources is appended to each biography.