Author Tags: Women

"The term weaker sex should make one's blood boil after reading this book!" That was Kim Campbell's comment in her foreword to Merna Forster's first book, 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn 2004). With a foreword by astronaut Julie Payette, Forster's follow-up volume 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn $24.99) includes the likes of World War II heroine Joan Fletcher Bamford, who rescued 2,000 Dutch captives from a prison camp in a Sumatran jungle; Hilwie Hamdon, the woman behind the building of Canada's first mosque; and crime fighter Frances Gertrude McGill, "the Sherlock Holmes of Saskatchewan." Forster operates a website at while employed as Executive Director of UVic's Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History Project.

From Merna Forster's website in 2012: "{Merna Forster is an author, historian, naturalist and photographer. She has a particular interest in women's history, natural and cultural heritage, travel and the outdoors.

"Merna grew up in the Alberta foothills, where she loved to ride horses on an uncle's farm with an impressive view of the Rocky Mountains. She earned a B.A. at the University of Alberta after studying both arts and sciences, and also took drama courses at the University of Victoria in B.C. A recipient of the Richard J. Schmeelk Canada Fellowship, Merna received an M.A. in history from Laval University in Quebec City.

"Merna worked with national parks and national historic sites across Canada in the areas of public education programs, outreach and visitor services. One of her favourite postings was in Haines Junction, Yukon - where she was the Chief of Visitor Services for Kluane National Park. Merna also enjoyed her many years as a Parks Canada naturalist in Jasper National Park, where she was a longtime board member and eventually president of the Jasper Yellowhead Historical Society.

"Merna has worked in the field of Canadian Studies. While based in Ottawa she received the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Commemorative Medal and served as vice-president of the Ottawa Independent Writers. In 2005 Merna was awarded The Lieutenant Governor's Celebration of the Arts Pin by Dr. Lynda Haverstock, Lieutenant Governor, Province of Saskatchewan. Merna Forster was one of the women featured in Herstory 2011: The Canadian Women's Calendar."


100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn 2004). Foreword by Kim Campbell $24.99

Children of the Prairie (Gatineau: Baico Publishing, 2004). Co-author with Joyce Dufresne. Illustrated by Jeremy Salzman. 1894494-93-8

100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn, 2011). Foreword by Julie Payette. $24.99 978-1554889709

[BCBW 2012]

Forster wins Berton Award
news item 2016

A steadfast campaign to feature prominent Canadian women on banknotes has earned Victoria historian and writer Merna Foster the $5000 Pierre Berton Award to be presented by Gov. Gen. David Johnston at Rideau Hall on November 28, 2016.

Previously known as the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media, the honour was accorded to another Victoria historian, Mark Zuehlke in 2014.

No women were among the top ten when CBC ran a contest for The Greatest Canadian around 2004; whereas loud-mouthed hockey commentator Don Cherry was rated at Number 7 on the list (which selected Tommy Douglas). Ever since, Forster has consistently written on behalf of Canadian women, having published 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn 2004) with a foreword by Kim Campbell, and 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces (Dundurn, 2011) with a foreword by Julie Payette.

Forster’s activism led her to spearhead a 2013 petition to have a Canadian woman portrayed on a banknote (after an image of activist Thérèse Casgrain, who fought for women to be recognized as persons, was reputedly kiboshed in favour of an image of an icebreaker).

Her petition gained 73,000 signatures. An Angus Reid poll showed that most Canadians agreed a woman should be represented, such as activist Nellie McClung or artist Emily Carr.

Having worked for years to help raise funds for an Emily Carr statue in Victoria’s inner harbour, Forster will now serve on a committee of four women and two men to select female candidates, one of which will be appear on a banknote in 2018.