Is International Women's Day a time to celebrate women's achievements or to contemplate the challenges that still linger? Some march in support of social, economic and political progress. Others might curl up with a box of Laura Secord chocolates and binge-watch The Handmaid's Tale. While those are valid choices, there are other diverse, meaningful and fun ways across Canada to make March 8 more female-focused.
Women's accomplishments in sports and music are front and centre in Calgary. Freestyle moguls skier Jennifer Heil, Olympic wrestler Carol Huynh and the almost-unbeatable 1920's Edmonton Grads basketball team are world-class inductees showcased at Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. At the National Music Centre, check out Big, Big Love, a special exhibition on singer-songwriter k.d. lang, plus Avril Lavigne's electric guitar and Buffy Sainte-Marie's rhinestone-studded stage outfit.
In Montreal, head to L'Euguélionne, a new, crowd-funded feminist bookstore, which offers such titles as Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology (edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer) and La princesse qui voulait devenir générale (Sophie Bienvenu and Camille Pomerleau). If your tastes are more sugary than literary, the award-winning Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois shop tantalizes with the founder's handcrafted dark chocolate and peppermint bars.
Inspiring women to shoot for the stars, Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut, speaks about "Curiosity, Creativity and the Safety Net of Science" at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Her Canadian landscape photos are displayed in an exhibition called "Light in the Land" in the rotunda (through March 13). At the National Gallery of Canada, admire works by important Inuit and Indigenous women artists, from Kenojuak Ashevak's "Katajatuit (Throat Singers Gathering)" to Jessie Oonark's "My Hands are Like Birds."
The community-operated Broadway Theatre features a matinee of The Breadwinner. Based on the best-selling book by Canadian Deborah Ellis, this Oscar-nominated, female-produced animated movie depicts an 11-year-old girl in Afghanistan striving to reunite her family. Come back at night for a comedy show with Gemini Award-winning actress Mary Walsh (CODCO, This Hour Has 22 Minutes). Dine at The Hollows on chef Christie Peters' innovative dishes made with foraged ingredients, including tempura dandelions and chocolate pâté with mint cream. Or enjoy gourmet tapas, drinks, and desserts at the Dress for Success Saskatoon Ensemble 2018 gala, which supports at-need women in the workplace by supplying professional attire.
If you're still irked that the U.S. edged out Canada for the Olympic women's hockey gold medal, visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame will perk you up. Canada's women have won four out of six Olympic titles and 10 out of 18 IIHF World Women's Championships, and our ultimate puck heroines are in the spotlight here. Check out Angela James's track suit from the inaugural 1990 Women's Worlds, Hayley Wickenheiser's 2010 Olympic jersey and equipment worn by 2017 inductee Danielle Goyette, the first Quebec woman enshrined in the Hall. To toast their success, head to the Granite Brewery & Tied House to sip head brewmaster Mary Beth Keefe's beers, including Gin Lane Ale (a hoppy 9 per cent barley wine) and Ringwood (a pale blonde 5 per cent ale).
Now in its 13th year, the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival offers free screenings all day long at the Vancity Theatre, from Deepa Mehta's Anatomy of Violence to Nadezhda Stepanova's I Know How to Knit. The Vancouver Art Gallery boasts Canada's largest collection of Emily Carr paintings, with evocative depictions of totem poles and coastal rainforests. If you'd rather head outdoors, visit Indigenous poet Pauline Johnson's memorial in Stanley Park, and stroll past swans and blue herons at tranquil Lost Lagoon, which is named after her poem.
The architecturally stunning Canadian Museum for Human Rights offers three women's rights-themed tours for International Women's Day. They include everything from Jaime Black's art installation on missing Indigenous women to the story of Viola Desmond, the black entrepreneur who combatted racial segregation at a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946 and will grace Canada's new $10 bill this year. Don't miss the exhibition on Canadian doctor Samantha Nutt, who helps women and children in conflict zones with War Child Canada. Also, snap photos at the Famous Five monument outside the Manitoba parliament, commemorating the five trailblazing suffragettes – Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby – whose 1929 Supreme Court challenge got women recognized as persons under Canadian law.
EXTRA XX-CHROMOSOME EXCELLENCE
If you've got $2,500 to spare, Whistler's Ski or Ride With an Olympian program gives you a day on the slopes with gold medalists like Ashleigh McIvor (ski cross) and Mercedes Nicoll (snowboard halfpipe).
Winemaking is still a male-dominated profession, but Burning Kiln in Beamsville, Ont. – an hour's drive south of Toronto – defies stereotypes with its majority-female staff, including head winemaker Lydia Tomek. Try the 2012 Kiln Hanger, a full-bodied cabernet franc.
Dreaming beyond Canada's borders? Book an all-women trip like Egypt and her Goddesses or Mongolia by Horseback with the Newfoundland-based Wild Women Expeditions.