Elsie MacGill honoured on Canadian coin


24 August 2023
The Royal Canadian Mint issued a new $1 commemorative circulation coin on 1 August honouring Elsie MacGill, an exceptional Canadian who broke barriers as an engineer and women’s rights champion.

Responsible for many firsts as a woman studying and practicing engineering, she was celebrated for setting up the Canadian production of the Hawker Hurricane fighter plane during World War II. Her lifelong advocacy for women’s rights included her appointment to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, in 1967.

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and minister of finance, said: ‘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. 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 artwork on the reverse of coin is the creation of British Columbia artist Claire Watson. It features Elsie MacGill holding a pair of rolled-up blueprints. Flying above her is the Maple Leaf Trainer II that she designed. Beside her appears one of the over 1450 Canadian-made Hawker Hurricane fighter planes that she helped produce for the Allied war effort in World War II, when chief engineer of Canadian Car and Foundry in Fort William, Ontario (now Thunder Bay).

For this wartime contribution, she was known as the ‘Queen of the Hurricanes’. Her name, ‘ELSIE MACGILL’, is engraved beneath the fighter plane. The obverse of this coin features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.

Elsie MacGill is widely credited as:

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  • the first woman in Canada to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (University of Toronto, 1927)
  • the first woman in North America to graduate with a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering (University of Michigan, 1929)
  • the first woman in Canada to become a practising engineer (1938)
  • the first North American woman, and possibly the world, to design an aircraft that was produced under her direction through to prototype (the Maple Leaf II trainer).

Despite her education and career being interrupted in 1929 by a form of polio that affected her mobility for the rest of her life, she persevered and excelled in aeronautics.

Limited to a mintage of three million coins, of which two million will be coloured, this new $1 circulation coin will reach Canadians in their change as bank branches and businesses replenish their stock of $1 coins.

Other collector products produced to celebrate Elsie MacGill include a commemorative ‘Collector Keepsake Card’, featuring both versions of the circulation coin, packaged with uncirculated versions of 2023 classic circulation coins (5c to $2).