International Women’s Day: where are the streets named for women?


PHOTO COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK

As Montreal gets ready to celebrate its 375th anniversary, yesterday the city announced the creation of Toponym'Elles, a new online database of women’s names that could be consulted to name streets, parks and public spaces.

In a press release, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Manon Gauthier, the city executive member responsible for Montreal’s culture, heritage, design, Space for Life and the status of women, said women make up only six percent of the city’s 6,000 street and place names. In time for Montreal’s 375th birthday they’re encouraging Montrealers to add at least 375 women to the database list.

What about closer to home?

The female-sounding street names aren’t always what they seem and they’re relatively rare. A few examples:

Hudson

Mount Victoria St.

Here Mount Victoria refers to Mount Victoria Farm, once owned by Thomas Bassett Macaulay, a wealthy insurance executive. His farming legacy is the Rag Apple line of Holstein cows, created when Macaulay combined a bull named Johanna Red Apple Pabst with Mount Victoria cows. Today most Holstein cows are considered to be descended from Macaulay’s herd. The Victoria in the Mount Victoria name is doubtlessly for Queen Victoria (1819-1901) who ruled England from 1837 until her death.

Saint-Lazare

Some street names, such as Hyacinthe Boileau may seem female but alas, Mr. Boileau was male. Many streets names sound female but don’t appear to be for any woman in particular; you could say the same for many of the male-sounding names. I couldn’t find any information on the origins of Croissant Amy. A few examples of women’s street names:

Chemin Sainte-Angélique

Quebec’s Toponymy Commission website currently has no information about this street’s origins but another place in Quebec called Papineauville has a parish called Sainte-Angélique, which was named for a woman named Angélique-Louise Cornud, the wife of a man named Denis-Benjamin Papineau, who according to Wikipedia, donated land for construction of the town’s church and rectory. It’s unclear if any connection exists between the two Sainte-Angéliques.

Chemin Sainte-Élisabeth

While Quebec’s Toponymy Commission website has no information on this particular name, according to Catholic Online, Saint Elizabeth appears in the Bible in the Book of Luke. As the story goes, she was a childless cousin of the Virgin Mary and conceived later in life and gave birth to the man who eventually became known as John the Baptist. Her feast day is Nov. 5.

Vaudreuil-Dorion

Many newer streets are named for flowers, some of which have are also women’s names, wine regions and hockey players. Many street names are masculine. You do find street names such as Rue Cécilia, Rue Isabelle and Rue Karine, but according to Quebec’s Toponymy Commission, these names are generic, in the sense that they don’t appear to be linked to a particular person.

Streets named after important women:

Rue Esther-Blondin

Born Esther Blondin (1809-1890), she was also known as Marie Anne Blondin, foundress of the Sisters of Saint Anne, a religious order dedicated to educating children living in rural areas, A park is also named for her.

Rue Marie-Curie

Named for Marie Curie, born Maria Sklodowska, (1867-1934), the first woman to win a Nobel prize. A Wikipedia entry points out she was “the first person and only woman to win twice and the only person to win twice in multiple sciences,” physics and chemistry. She was the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris and her research, along with that of her husband, Pierre Curie, led to the discovery of radium and polonium, and after her husband’s death, further development of x-rays.

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