Thursday, February 22, 2024

New loonie celebrating famous Canadian feminist designed by Tofino artist


A new colourful loonie is now in circulation that honours one of Canada’s most famous women, Elsie MacGill, and it was designed by a BC-based artist. 

MacGill broke barriers for so many women who came after her in the aviation and engineering industries. 

“Through her dedication and an unshakeable belief that there was nothing women could not do, Elsie MacGill broke the glass ceiling for Canadian women pursuing careers in engineering, and made historic contributions to Canada’s efforts during the Second World War,” said The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. 

“I am so pleased that this commemorative coin will honour the legacy of a remarkable champion of women’s rights, and will share her story with a new generation of Canadians.”

The impressive and detailed artwork for the ‘tails’ side of this commemorative loonie was created by Claire Watson, who calls Tofino home. 

Watson’s artistic style is heavily influenced by her Vancouver Island surroundings and frequently features the relationships between animals, humans and the environment. 

She has worked on three other commemorative coins for the Royal Canadian Mint before creating art for the Elsie MacGill loonie. 

The Tofitian illustrated MacGill holding a set of blueprints and wearing an engineer’s iron ring to remind Canadians that she was the first Canadian to graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering and the first woman in North America to get her Master’s in Aeronautical Engineering.

The Maple Leaf Trainer II, which she designed, is flying above her shoulder on the $1 coin with the plane she was made possible to produce in Canada, the Hawker Hurricane fighter, flying beside her, emblazoned with a pop of colour. 

MacGill became known as the “Queen of the Hurricanes” in the Second World War for her efforts in the Canadian production of Hawker fighters. 

Watson also added a lapel pin to MacGill’s jacket to illustrate her efforts as a women’s rights advocate in the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs specifically. 

(Royal Canadian Mint)

Some of Watson’s other clients, aside from the Royal Canadian Mint include Patagonia, BC Ferries, The Wickaninnish Inn, Tourism Vancouver Island, and many other west coast-based organizations. 

Sadly, MacGill passed away in November 1980 at the age of 75-years-old, so she couldn’t see herself immortalized on the loonie. However, for the release of the colourful loonie, the Royal Canadian Mint got a statement from a family member of MacGill’s who remembers his time with her well. 

“Apart from all of her other notable achievements, she was a wonderful grandmother,” said grandson Rohan Soulsby. “I spent nearly every Sunday evening during my high school years with Elsie and my grandfather, Bill Soulsby.” 

“There was never any shortage of interesting conversation around the dinner table as we discussed current events in Canada and around the world on topics ranging from politics to women’s rights to aviation, music and the arts.” 

“On top of all that, she also made an awesome peach pie,” MacGill’s grandson added. 

Curtis Blandy

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