Tofino artist designs new loonie commemorating Canadian engineer Elsie MacGill

Tofino artist designs new loonie commemorating Canadian engineer Elsie MacGill

Tofino artist Claire Watson has designed the latest commemorative loonie for the Canadian Mint, which features trailblazing engineer Elsie MacGill.

MacGill was known as the “Queen of the Hurricanes” for her role in producing more than 1,450 Canadian-made Hawker Hurricane fighter planes that were used in the Second World War.

Her impact on the country goes beyond her wartime contributions, however.

MacGill is widely considered to be the first woman in Canada to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, which she received at the University of Toronto in 1927, according to the Canadian Mint.

She’s also considered to be the first woman in North America to graduate with a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering – which she received from the University of Michigan in 1929 – and was the first woman in Canada to practice engineering in 1938, the mint says.

MacGill became chief engineer at the Canadian Car and Foundry plant in Fort William, now known as Thunder Bay, Ont., in 1938 and was “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,” according to the mint.

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The new loonie, designed by Watson, features MacGill holding blueprints while two planes fly above her, with the Maple Leaf Trainer II directly overhead and the Hawker Hurricane fighter plane on the left of the coin.

Three million of these loonies entered circulation on Tuesday, including two million that are coloured and one million that are not.

The commemorative coins can also be purchased through the Canadian Mint in a coin set.

“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 Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, in a release Tuesday.

“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,” she said.

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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