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Honouring and promoting Canadian women in defence and security industries

Established in 2006, the WiDS Annual Memorial Scholarship honours the memory of a woman who gave her life in the service of Canada while fostering an educational legacy for today’s deserving Canadian women. This year, WiDS is proud to present a scholarship in the name of Nursing Sister (N/S) Katherine Mary Maud MacDonald, the first Canadian woman to die in World War I.

Katherine Mary Maud MacDonald

Katherine Mary Maud MacDonald, of Brampton, Ontario, was the quintessential Canadian girl. Daughter of loving parents Mary Maud and Angus, she was engaged to John Ballantyne and dreamt of starting her life with him. But first, she wanted to fulfil her duty to King and Country.

Katherine had studied nursing at the Victoria Hospital School of Nursing in London, Ontario and, feeling the pull of the war effort, enlisted in the Canadian Army Nursing Service. On May 19th, 1918, “at the close of what had been a peaceful Sunday” Katherine, then just 31 years old, would be among more than 50 officers, nursing sisters and patients who would pay the ultimate price during a terrifying, chaotic bombing raid at the at the No.1 Stationary Hospital in Etaples, France. The quintessential Canadian girl from the quiet streets of Brampton, Ontario had “died of blood loss and shock” and was laid to rest in a military cemetery in Etaples, far from her home, her homeland, and all those whom she held dear.

“The devotion to duty, with absolute disregard to personal safety, that was exhibited by all ranks, was very highly commendable.” (excerpt from the Intelligence Summary of the No. 1 Canadian General Hospital for May 1918).

Although Katherine never got to came back to Canada, start a family or grow old with John, her legacy lives on nearly a century after her death. On March 8th, 2017, a Canadian woman who is forging her own path in defence and security will receive a scholarship in N/S MacDonald’s name and with it, her commitment, belief in the power of women to make a difference, and her determination to go where few – if any – women had gone before, in order to pave the way for future generations of Canadian women.

Despite its name, Women in Defence and Security (WiDS) is not just for women. In fact, the not-for-profit organization, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, welcomes anyone with an interest in advancing women in Canadian defence and security-related industries. From relatively modest beginnings in 2005, WiDS’ membership has grown to more than 2,000 women and men from Canada’s public and private sectors, defence and security industries, military and police organizations, including some very well-known and influential leaders.

WiDS is a not-for-profit affiliate of CADSI (Canadian Defence and Security Industries). As a volunteer organization, WiDS has an Executive Committee and an independent Advisory Committee.

WiDS is built on three pillars: an active and inclusive networking program, a professional development program, and the provision of financial support for women who are studying or working to further their post-secondary education toward a career in Canadian security and defence. With chapters in Ottawa and Calgary, WiDS is continuing its aggressive expansion efforts with many events and networking opportunities planned throughout the year.

Fittingly, the Annual Memorial Scholarship Award Breakfast Ceremony will take place on International Woman’s Day, Wednesday, March 8th, 2017, at the Shaw Centre in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. To register for the event and for more information on WiDS activities and events, please visit

By Sabrine Barakat, VP, Communications, WiDS.

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