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Thursday, May 23, 2024
International Women’s Day 2023: Celebrating the Women of Niagara-on-the-Lake
More than 100 women filled Queen Street on Monday to mark International Women’s Day. (Somer Slobodian)
Kyra Simone, left, and Coun. Sandra O'Connor. (Evan Loree)
Niagara-on-the-Lake women, more than 100 in all, converged on Queen Street on Monday morning for a mass photo to mark International Women’s Day. (Somer Slobodian)
Niagara-on-the-Lake women, more than 100 in all, converged on Queen Street on Monday morning for a mass photo to mark International Women’s Day. (Somer Slobodian)
Niagara-on-the-Lake women, more than 100 in all, converged on Queen Street on Monday morning for a mass photo to mark International Women’s Day. (Somer Slobodian)
Women from NOTL's church community. (Evan Loree)
A few of the many women of The Lake Report turned out for the women's day photo. (Don Reynolds)
*NOTL women meet up at the clock tower for The Lake Report's International Women's Day photo shoot on Monday morning. (Dave Van de Laar)


Video documentary:

Biographies compiled by Kevin MacLean. Photography by Richard Harley, Evan Loree, Don Reynolds, Julia Sacco, Somer Slobodian and Dave Van de Laar. Video and drone photography by Rene Bertschi. Special section designed by Rose Campbell.




This online story is part of The Lake Report’s celebration of the women of Niagara-on-the-Lake to mark International Women’s Day.

Our print and online coverage features biographies of more than 100 women, many of whom gathered in front of the town’s iconic clock tower cenotaph on Queen Street on the morning of Monday, March 6, for a mass group photo.

As well, find a video here documenting the day and offering a behind-the-scenes look at how the gathering came together as we shut down NOTL’s main street for the occasion.

Despite the logistics of organizing so many people for such a large first-time event, it was all over and done in a remarkable 15 minutes.

Don’t miss our beautiful, commemorative 12-page special section here.

And below, read about the scores of women who came out on a brisk, but beautiful winter morning – and many others who have made invaluable contributions to the community.




For this special International Women’s Day celebration edition, we asked women from all walks of life in NOTL to provide a few words about themselves and someone who inspired them. Here is what they had to say:

Melissa Achal

Co-founder and president of NEOB Lavender, a woman entrepreneur for more than 13 years, with four retail stores and a 12-acre farm. All of our 150 products are made in Niagara. Inspiration: Melissa takes inspiration from women who feel enthusiastic about their life, family and job.

Linda Anderson-Kozik

Lifelong NOTLer. An avid gardener, home economist, high school and university educator, and amateur NOTL historian. Inspiration: Great-grandmother Clara Arbuthnot, the epitome of a hard-working, no-nonsense rural woman.

Debra Antoncic

Director/curator of RiverBrink Art Museum in Queenston, holds a PhD in art history, specialty in post-war Canadian art. Inspiration: My mentor, Joyce Zemans, Canadian art historian, curator, cultural policy specialist and academic, strong supporter of women artists and academics.

Denise Ascenzo

Her stories have been featured in The Lake Report since October of 2017. A well-travelled writer, her love of history and work with the museum inspires her writings, which provide a rich historical perspective of NOTL for readers to enjoy.

Ruth Aspinall

A businesswoman in town for more than 30 years and the original owner of the Epicurean, she now runs two retail stores downtown and Art Space 106, focused strictly on local art and artisans. Inspiration: Gerhard Richter, a German visual artist.

Bonnie Bagnulo

Executive director of NOTL Community Palliative Care Service. Inspiration: My mother-in-law, Pasqualina Bagnulo, always said that through pleasing others you please yourself, “love” is an action word. She was right, she was a gift.

Dr. Karen Berti

Has lived in NOTL for 24 years, raised her family here and feels privileged to look after the medical needs of residents. Inspiration: My mother, the strongest woman I have ever known. She taught me to do everything with full effort, otherwise it’s not worth doing at all.

Rima Boles
Director of the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre, the art hub of the community. Inspiration: Donata Puteris, my mom. The strongest, most selfless person I know, she demonstrated that any obstacle can be overcome.

Fran Boot

Entrepreneur and people-oriented volunteer. If a spreadsheet is involved, that’s a bonus. Inspiration: My mom, Shirley Bergshoeff. When I was a child, she would tote me along on volunteer projects where I would “help.”

Hope Bradley

Founding member of NOTL Junior Women’s Hospital Auxiliary and the NOTL chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society. She was a leading community co-ordinator for the fledgling Shaw Festival.

Some of the women from the agricultural, wine and farming community were on hand Monday. (Dave Van de Laar)

Lisa Brillon

Queenston resident independent singing teacher for 30 years in Niagara, founder and leader with numerous organizations, including Queenston Musical Theatre Camp and Queenston Women’s Chorus. Inspiration: My mother, my piano teacher and my high school teacher who encouraged me to attend the first International Women’s Day conference in Winnipeg in 1975 where I realized that women are important, equal and can achieve anything.

Tobi Brockway

An accredited interior design specialist who has been transforming homes in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the past 10 years. Loves supporting local businesses and volunteering for various causes. Inspiration: My high school Spanish teacher (and later deputy education minister), Veronica Lacey. She spurred my love of travel and showed me that with hard work and focus, I could achieve my lifetime goals.

Helle Brodie

Business, mindset and life coach, helping high achievers avoid burnout and learn to live their whole life. Inspiration: Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey and Marianne Williamson, who brought an understanding of the value of the female spirit into my life while working in a male dominated industry.

Rita Brown
Worked in the arts as a costumer for 45 years, mainly with the Shaw Festival. Inspiration: Grateful for the many women who have influenced my life, teaching me about kindness, faith, wisdom, beauty and courage and the importance of giving back.

Nancy Butler

Librarian, educator, writer, archivist, researcher, chair and president of the Niagara Historical Society, and creator of the extensive Shaw Festival library.

Shawna Butts

Through her work with the NOTL Museum, she helps preserve and promote the town’s history, especially as it relates to women’s history. Inspiration: My mom, who made me the sassy, stubborn and outspoken woman that I am today.

Rose Ellen Campbell

Owner of Campbell Creative, part-time teacher, as well as a volunteer with the Rotary Club’s Holiday House Tour and with Autism Ontario for many years. Inspiration: My mother, “Rocket” Ruth Volpé, a phenomenal force, primo volunteer and Canadian junior diving champion.

May Chang

Former Niagara Health chief financial officer and senior hospital administrator, vice-chair Vineland Research Institute. Inspiration: My mother and grandmother, who never allowed social biases or sexism deter them from succeeding in life.

Wendy Cheropita

Town councillor who held senior management roles in marketing and strategic planning in the Ontario and international wine industry. Inspiration: Nancy Cardinal, LCBO’s former senior VP of marketing, who, with a team exclusively comprised of women, transformed the LCBO in the 1990s.

Marnie Cluckie

NOTL’s chief administrative officer, a passionate community builder, culture and people champion, dedicated to helping individuals and teams achieve their maximum potential. Inspiration: My daughter, Lexi Miller-Cluckie: strong, fearless and full of grit.

Marilyn Cochrane

St. Davids-based artist, whose paintings and sculptures are a celebration of nature and a recognition of the healing properties that its beauty offers. Inspiration: Emily Mason, a brilliant colourist and inspiring example of a deeply creative life fully lived.

Penny-Lynn Cookson
Art historian, writer, educator, community arts and culture advocate, RiverBrink and Niagara Pumphouse lecturer. Community volunteer and columnist for The Lake Report. Inspiration: Jane Fonda, an activist fighting for civil rights, women’s causes, environment, fitness, education and against ageism.

Laura Crocco

A baker since age 13, started home-based Cupcakes By Laura in 2020 in NOTL. Food Network addict. Inspiration: Martha Stewart and Anna Olson, amazing women.

Martha Cruikshank

Retired phys-ed teacher, an active member, player, competitor, champion and volunteer at the NOTL Golf Club. Promotes golf by refereeing and presenting rules sessions for Golf Ontario. Inspiration: Elite, female athletes in all sports, including Cathy Sherk, a role model in playing and teaching golf.

Shauna Dickson

Active in the business community, alongside her parents Paul and Maureen, she helps run their family’s clothing shop. Inspiration: My mother is pure love in human form, the kindest person I know and the epitome of strength. I want to be her when I grow up.

Juliet Dunn

Co-creator and executive artistic producer of the 10th annual TD Niagara Jazz Festival. Also a singer, booking agent, Shaw Festival alumna and engaged community volunteer. Inspiration: My entire family – they’ve always believed in everything I do.

Chris Earl

First moved to NOTL in 1962. A map designer and instructor in cartography and geographic information systems (GIS) at Carleton University. Returned to NOTL after retirement in 2010. Actively involved in environmental causes. Inspiration: My aunt Elizabeth, just 5 foot 2 and uneducated, she demonstrated a fierce courage and independence.

Brenda Ferguson

Co-Founder of the NOTL Youth Collective, mother of three amazing girls, works at Virgil post office. Chair of St. Michael school council, volunteer with NOTL Brownies. Former president Niagara Nursery School. Inspiration: My aunt Brenda, who did not get enough time on this Earth but had amazing family values and spread so much love while she was here.

Marilyn Francis

A local business owner, broker with Bosley Real Estate and community contributor committed to developing a vibrant NOTL Tennis Club over the past 10 years. Inspiration: My mother, who taught, by example, the importance of volunteerism in building community.

Leslie Frankish

In retirement, she created the Chautauqua Oaks Project. Has planted hundreds of new trees, with thousands planned. A nationally recognized set and costume designer, worked with Shaw Festival and was production designer for Vancouver2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies. Inspiration: Mother Earth, for the astonishing natural beauty we have been blessed with in Canada.

Sharon Frayne-French

Award-winning artist and author, member of NOTL Newcomers, the Pumphouse and NOTL Writers’ Circle, and author of two published books. Inspiration: In 1912, my great-grandmother, Alice Moss/Read, travelled to Canada in steerage class, alone with her five children and few belongings. She worked hard, overcame disadvantages and became a successful businesswoman to help her family.

Artists, writers, curators and others representing all the women who are part of the NOTL arts scene. (Evan Loree)

Linda Fritz

University of Saskatchewan librarian for more than 30 years, moved to Queenston to escape winter. Now immersed in the history of the community. Inspiration: Victoria de la Ronde, a Metis woman from northern Saskatchewan who overcame prejudice and a physical disability to attend law school. Taught me that you can do anything you set your mind to.

Patty Garriock
A master gardener, former competitive golf and tennis player, retired public health nurse, now an active community volunteer. Inspiration: My mother, Mary Lloyd McCabe, who encouraged me to believe in myself, be kind and be the best person I can be every day.

Syrina Gatta

Principal designer and new president of Gatta Homes. Taking over the 30+ year family-run business after working with multiple Niagara designers and architects. Inspiration: My grandmother, Mani Gatta, a refugee from Uganda who escaped Idi Amin’s regime and made a life for herself and family from nothing.

Megan Gilchrist

Resident of St. Davids, a NOTL leader and trainer with Girl Guides of Canada. Inspiration: The many mentors and friends I’ve had in Guiding, who encourage me to push my boundaries and try new things. And the youth members who remind me to never stop learning and having fun.

Rosemary Goodwin

Has spent 20 years advocating for tennis as a builder of character, community, healthy well-being, and for regaining its rightful place in the history of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Inspiration: My mother and my mother-in-law: Unstoppable despite poverty, war and opportunity denied because they were female.

Laurie Harley

Retired executive in the corporate high-tech sector, now on a “self-directed sabbatical” and pursuing volunteer opportunities that are challenging and fun. Inspiration: Margret Lewis, my first manager, whose motto was “Reach for the stars. If you miss, you’re on the mountaintop.”

Irene Harlond

A mobile mortgage specialist for DUCA Credit Union who loves to help others achieve their home financing goals and dreams. Inspiration: My mom, Lillian Kerber, who is selfless in everything she does and is such a hard worker.

 Pat Hartman

School music teacher, member of Avanti Chamber Singers, Newark Singers, community activist, researcher, creator of the Turntable Garden. Inspirations: Mrs. Marks, who gave me my first solo, and Margherita Howe, who fought to preserve our historic town.

Brianne Hawley

Marketing manager for the Wineries of NOTL and a mother of two, sits on several town board and committees. Inspiration: My grandmother Sandra Wright of Trenton – a firecracker, encourager, hand-holder and great advice giver.

Yolanda Henry
Keen golfer and NOTL club champion, a global volunteer, involved for many years with the Tabitha Foundation in Canada and overseas. Inspiration: Those around me, who try to do more for others. And to play better.

Andorlie Hillstrom

A seasoned musical theatre professional, founder and artistic producer of Yellow Door Theatre Project. Eager to continue sharing her passion with Niagara’s youth. Inspiration: My daughter, Jacqueline Burtney, a professional actress, entrepreneur and a new mom, whose strength, determination and tenaciousness have been inspiring.

Sheila Hirsch-Kalm

A gardening expert, she died in December but lives on through her many contributions to the community. She had the vision to create the beautiful daffodil Gardens of Hope that are now found in many parts of town.

Peggy Hooke

Was head of history and geography at Etobicoke Collegiate. Involved in equity education and presented at the McGill Institute. Became president of NOTL Newcomers, now works with Nyanyas, which supports the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Inspiration: Many women, but my mother was probably the first. She encouraged my sister and I to become independent and go after our goals.

Dr. Marianne Hopkins

A passionate health care with an optometry practice in NOTL. Inspiration: My mom, who was the only woman in her university graduating class in chemistry. She taught me I can do anything.

Jihu (Gina) Hyeon
Co-owner/baker at Soko Bakery Café, serving Korean-style baked goods and drinks. Inspiration: My longtime friend Hana, who is very independent and motivates me to lead my life better.

Sandra Iafrate

An artist, educator and philanthropist, operates Gate Street Studio in NOTL. Created a recent body of work around the theme of women. Inspiration: Numerous women including teachers, peers, colleagues, friend, and family. And artists Maud Lewis and Agnes Martin.

Gracia Janes

Founded and volunteered with numerous community groups, including the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society in 1976. Received Ontario Medal for Citizenship in 1985 and the Canada 125 Medal in 1992. Founding member of the NOTL Conservancy. Received town volunteer award and Niagara Foundation’s “Living Landmark” honour for NOTL heritage work. Inspiration: Many women, including Laura Sabia and Edna Krikorian, both advocates for social and environmental justice who were not afraid to rock the boat.

Jovie Joki

Owner of The Irish Harp Pub, she supports and works in conjunction with the community. Inspiration: NOTL businesswomen, as we work together in making Niagara-on-the-Lake a timeless destination.

Andrea Kaiser 

Mother, regional councillor and businessperson who is most passionate about her community. Inspiration: Former New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, who embodied positive politics and served with empathy, kindness and a passion for climate change.

Bobbie Kalman

The author of more than 1,000 children’s library books and a publisher for 45 years. She and her husband Peter Crabtree own Crabtree Publishing Company. Inspiration: NOTL got me started on my many historic books, which continue to be my bestsellers.

Anett Kane

Owner and co-founder of Budapest Bakeshop. Mother, wife, baker and community volunteer. Every unsold chimney cake has been donated to the YWCA of Niagara since 2021. Inspirations: My mother, Eva Fenyvesi, and my grandmother, Erzsebet Foldi, whom I grew up in the kitchen with in Kesckemet, Hungary, watching them create delicious food from scratch.

Sarah Kaufman

Managing director of the NOTL Museum, she encourages the community to learn about and appreciate NOTL’s heritage through the museum, projects and events. Inspiration: My daughters (Isabel, Madeline and Audrey) who, I hope, will be inspired by the stories of our past to do great things themselves.

Aksana Kavaliova-Moussi

Certified music therapist and registered psychotherapist in private practice, works with children and adults with disabilities and mental health issues (including anxiety, depression, trauma). Inspiration: The women I meet every day who exhibit strength and ability to overcome obstacles, while staying caring, loving, and compassionate.

Ashley Keller

Owns Keller Painting Co. in Niagara, with a strong team of women working to create beautiful spaces in the community. Inspiration: My hard-working mother, Georgina Keller, who owned a small business and showed me the value of hard work.

Gail Kendall

Employee of Riverbend Inn, volunteers with The Lake Report and Shaw Festival. As a member of the Shaw Guild, loves greeting, hosting and providing backstage tours for guests. Inspiration: My wise mother, who continuously supported and encouraged me to enjoy life and to be all that I can be.

Joan King

Organizer of Terry Fox Run, Christmas stockings for seniors in long-term care, mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters, volunteer and past board member of TD Jazz festival. Inspiration: My former colleague, Bridgid Davidson, who was on her own cancer journey. “A woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong.”

Amy Klassen

A member of the staff at the NOTL Museum for over 20 years, working to engage the community and its visitors with our history through programs, events and member/volunteer activities.

Carla Kloosterhuis

Founder of NOTL fashion boutique and online business YOKA in Virgil. Inspiration: Betty White, because I can find humour in anything and the word retirement is not in my vocabulary.

Betty Knight

A master gardener, she enjoys collaborating with NOTL charities and organizations of all sorts – from the library board to the Crossroads school classroom, to sharing horticulture advice on Shaw garden tours and in the community. Inspiration: Bev Carrick (co-founder of CAUSE Canada, an international relief agency) taught me that I could change the world; not the whole world, but the part I touched.

Members of NOTL’s church community were represented at the International Women’s Day gathering. (Evan Loree)

Britt Kranz

Volunteer co-ordinator at the Farmworker Hub, full-time employee of Sun Outdoors, a mom, Little Free Library steward and hiking enthusiast. Inspiration: My best friend, Katie Caiola. Fiercely independent, she has a beautiful heart and a career that will make this world a better place. An inspiration since we were 13-year-old expats living in a Jakarta, Indonesia.

Donna Lailey

Longtime community volunteer and leader. Early in my grape processing venture, Dr. Peter Peach of Brock University did a complimentary soil analysis of my vineyard and said I had something very special here. That gave me the confidence to create a profitable and satisfying business – and formed the basis of Lailey Vineyard Wine Inc.

Marg Lambert

The administrator of Upper Canada Lodge, she has spent 40 years working with seniors, after starting her career as a dietitian in long-term care home in St. John’s. Inspiration: Without Barbara Mahaffey, a great friend and mentor at St. Joseph’s Villa, I never would have become an administrator.

Sandra Lawrence

Retired from 35 years as an art conservator and teacher, then got involved locally as a volunteer with community, art and museum programs. Inspiration: Early on, my mother Donna, later teacher and supporter Sandra Paikowsky, and artist-mentor Ghitta Caiserman-Roth.

Beverley Lees   

Lifelong NOTL resident, former Canadian Cancer Society canvasser for 30+ years. Cherry pie maker, recipient of Order of Niagara at St. Mark’s and original member of the NOTL Tennis Club. Inspiration: My mother, Enid Lees inspired me with her love, support and example.

Kimberly Legros

A vocal representative for Ontario VQA wines and ciders for 30 years, owner of Niagara Fine Wine and partner in Brunch Beverages, a community volunteer and board member of the Wise Girls/Guys Charity. Inspiration: My mom, Heather Legros, “where there is a will there’s a way.”

Deralyn MacKenzie

A 37-year member of NOTL Fire Department & Queenston Volunteer Firefighters Association, 36 years as a paramedic in Niagara. Inspiration: Irene George, my mother. Born in 1920 but ahead of her time in many ways. An independent, strong, determined entrepreneur (beauty shop in Toronto in 1940s, farmer from 1950s-1980s). Led by example.

Judith MacLachlan

An elementary school teacher and single mother of two children, she moved to NOTL in 1974. Took over Kerry’s Kitchen in 1976, providing picnics for theatre goers. Disturbed by rampant development, in 1987, together Margherita Howe, Laura Dodson and architectural historian Peter Stokes, founded the Niagara-on-the-Lake Conservancy. A “Living Landmark” recipient, has been active on numerous boards. Inspiration: Margherita and Laura for their community activism.

Terry Mactaggart

Has lived in NOTL since 1971, involved in numerous boards and committees, former CEO of NOTL Community Palliative Care. Inspiration: Met two hospice volunteers in 1982 who were helping a dying friend in Connecticut. Led to a 30-year career in palliative care.

Shirley Madsen

Deeply involved in horticulture in NOTL for many years, she started a website SunflowersforUkraine.ca to raise awareness and funds for Ukraine. Inspiration: Generous NOTLers, Ukrainian immigrant families in NOTL, like Saksina and Babin, and my mother Lydia Nazar.

Virginia Mainprize
A retired editor in educational publishing and non-fiction books. Former B&B operator. Keen gardener. Resident of NOTL and member of St. Mark’s parish for 30 years.

Kathy Mann
Dedicated volunteer at Red Roof Retreat for five years, plus the Pumphouse and Chamber of Commerce. Loves helping with community events. Inspiration: Jann Arden for her dedication to animal welfare.

Marlene Masales

Longtime volunteer prior to moving to NOTL. Now help in various capacities with the Shaw Guild, Music Niagara, museum, library, and during municipal election. Inspiration: My mother, Natalie Masales, but in NOTL it has been Mona Babin, who is a tireless, committed role model.

Resa Mastromatteo 

Passionate community volunteer including at the new NOTL Youth Collective and the Community Crew lunch program. Inspiration: My mother, who me to put the needs of those less fortunate ahead of my own wants.

Maria Mavridis

A Virgil resident and downtown business operator. Also a town councillor and owner of Anchor Niagara, which raises money for local charities. Recipient in 2021 of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business Community Impact and Leadership Award.

Asta McCann 

Programming and Curatorial Assistant at RiverBrink Art Museum, a curator and arts facilitator for over six years. Born and raised in Niagara. Inspiration: My mother, Jurate McCann, who always encouraged me to follow my dreams and appreciate the little things in life.

Caroline McCormick 

President and founder, Friends of Laura Secord, great-great-great granddaughter Laura Secord, who is her source of inspiration. Her story highlights the contributions women and everyday citizens made to Canada’s nationhood, and she continues as a metaphor for courage, determination and fortitude for Canadian women today.

Judy McLeod

Retired telecommunications and charitable sector executive and lately a leader in heritage protection and community involvement in NOTL. Inspiration: My aunt, Nancy Holborn, who blazed a career trail in educational leadership in the 1950s, ’60s and beyond, showing me the value of authenticity and integrity in everything you do.

Aimee Medina

One of the creatives behind the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre, working to bring art for all to the community. Inspiration: Michelle Obama inspires me to embrace my cultural identity. In her words, “Our glorious diversity makes us who we are.”

Sharon Michlik

Owner of Great Things Ltd. in NOTL, she grew up here and attended both Parliament Oak and Niagara District. As a business owner serving women for over 27 years in Niagara on the Lake, I inspired myself as a woman to succeed at everything surrounding the choices I made in life.

Marah Minor

As the Town of NOTL’s community engagement and communications co-ordinator, she creates communications materials and oversees town events. Inspiration: My best friend, who has been by my side through everything and no matter what the circumstance, can make me laugh.

Mary Mizen

Retired from a career in marketing, six years on Hospice Niagara board, joined Shaw Guild in 2014, volunteering in several roles including president 2023-24. Inspiration: My aunt, Margaret Gould, an independent, successful career woman who travelled and enjoyed life.

Cheryl Morris

Retired from corporate communications role at global tech company, moved to NOTL in 2012 and began volunteering with groups such as the Shaw Guild, NOTL Ambassadors, Heritage Trail and Pumphouse Arts Centre. Inspiration: NOTL’s Laurie Harley, who has the strength of conviction, dedication and vision to enhance community life.

Sara Morris

Office administrator and marketing specialist at RiverBrink Art Museum in Queenston. Creative and passionate about the arts. Formerly a graphic designer. Inspiration: My mother, Michelle Morris. Kind, generous and the strongest woman I know.

Cheryl Munce

An Engel & Völkers Niagara realtor. Living locally and selling globally, a supporter of the Shaw Guild. Among the top 10 per cent of all Niagara realtors by volume. Inspiration: My grandfather, George Yeates, who was self-taught, a leader, planner, philosopher and workhorse.

Julia Murray

Head of school at NOTL’s Royal Oak Community School. Inspiration: Camp counsellor Aimee Bruner, a person who stands up for others, communicates her values in all she says and does, and is brave in the most difficult situations, using communication and love to rise above challenges.

Margaret Northfield

Director of the Niagara Bruce Trail Club, she promotes conservation and wellness through hiking. Leads urban hikes in NOTL. Inspiration: Karen Bromely-Eckert, production designer in film and TV. Taught me leadership with compassion, kindness and determination.

Sandra O’Connor

Had a career in research, now a NOTL councillor, passionate about the environment, focused on health care, infrastructure and heritage. Inspiration: My mother Jane Kelly’s independence, integrity and generosity, and Elizabeth May’s dedication to the environment.

Catherine O’Donnell
Pastry professor and NOTL business owner of 20 years, operates Willow Cakes & Pastries. Inspiration: The young women who strive to become part of the culinary world and pass down as much knowledge as I have so they can start on the right foot, ahead of the curve.

Audrey Pellett

Assists with Buy Nothing Facebook group and helps facilitate sending clothing and food to our Northern Neighbours in Nunavut. Inspiration: My Girl Guide captain Fletcher, who taught me the importance of service to others.

Candice Penny

An early childhood educator at Niagara Nursery School for 12 years, dedicated to providing quality, accessible education and care to all families. Inspiration: My mother and mother-in-law, the most loving and hardworking women I know.

Tanya Jean Peterson

An artist, she and her husband own Niagara Image Gallery in Virgil, the exclusive gallery for the work of her mother, Trisha Romance. Inspiration: Her sister and grandmother, and her mother, whose determination helped pave the way for other artists.

Carrie Plaskett

Advocate for local youth sports. President NOTL Soccer, NOTL Minor Hockey Association board member, Crossroads school council chair.  Inspiration: To be a positive role model for my children. They motivate me to participate and lead with a loud voice that values the support and inclusivity.

Caroline Polgrabia

Grew up in NOTL, an industry development officer for Ontario’s tourism ministry leads the GTA’s tourism portfolio. Volunteer roles include the chair of Family & Children Services Niagara Foundation and NOTL Youth Collective advisory group. Inspiration: My mother, Patricia Atherton. She is smart, resilient, tenacious and kind. Always sees the world with optimism and compassion.

Catherine Porter

From England, is director of operations at Simpson’s Pharmacies, member of NOTL Palliative Care board. Inspiration: My sister Jane. I aspire to tread her path of love, goodness, success and fun.

Tara Rosling

Actor, environmental and humanitarian advocate. Fundraises for Gillian’s Place (with “The Mistletoe Bride”). Organized community fundraisers for Ukraine and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. Inspiration: My great aunt, Joyce Wheatley, who at 94 still says, “Life’s a great adventure.”

Sue Rumsey

Operates D&H Balloon Bouquets in Virgil. Inspiration: My parents, who are self-employed. Their hard work and passion has been instilled in me. I have always wanted to be my own boss.

Julie Saggers

Photographer and owner of Bambinos Photography, a full-service studio, celebrating 20 years capturing life, in studio or outdoors. Inspiration: My mother, Jean Toye Saggers, a nurse, teacher and caregiver, believes “knowledge is power” and still takes courses to better herself.

NOTL women in sports were represented by Marilyn Francis and Rosemary Goodwin. (Don Reynolds)

Kiera Sangster

Longtime cast member of Shaw Festival, works with Town of NOTL on diversity and inclusion issues. Inspiration: It takes a village to raise a child. I’m thankful for all the women, connected through blood and love who have walked alongside me during this journey we call life.

Tania Sapielak

Born and raised in NOTL, owns the Mutt Hutt Grooming Salon. “Animals are my passion. I love meeting the community and all their wonderful pets.” Inspiration: Kat Beaulieu, my mentor and master dog groomer. A woman of amazing strength and determination.

Michelle Scott

A former national level competitive curler. Built a career as a successful executive in the food industry and is deeply involved with several community organizations. Inspiration: My first nursing supervisor, who encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone.

Laura Sentineal

Owner of Sentineal Carriages, farmer and active community volunteer. Inspiration: My daughters, Amanda and Meagan. They keep me on my toes, in a good way. 

Kyra Simone

A PhD student and climate change researcher with two master’s degrees, she writes The Lake Report’s “Keeping it Green column. And she keeps it green through action and activism for a sustainable future. Inspiration: My mom, Ann Marie. Determined and strong, with enduring empathy for others and the natural world.

 Jennifer Smith

A volunteer at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Altar Guild. A floral designer and small business owner. Inspiration: My mother and my grandmothers: Don’t be afraid to try. You can do whatever you set your mind to.

Nancy Smith

An award-winning television executive and entrepreneur with a lifelong commitment to public service. Member of Shaw Festival board. She funds and supports educational programs at the theatre for disadvantaged children and youth. Inspiration: Books –they showed me what was possible in life.

Dorothy Soo-Wiens

A community volunteer and grape grower, very involved with Cornerstone Community Church and Niagara Lions Club. Inspiration: My mother, Ivy Soo, who through perseverance and faith in God, provided a better life for myself and my siblings.

Victoria Steele 

Senior Town of NOTL employee, dedicated to collaborating with community stakeholders and championing inclusive leadership opportunities. Inspiration: Hazel McCallion, the epitome of a leader who inspired teamwork and consensus.

Kathy Taylor

Retired innkeeper, community volunteer, active church volunteer, grandmother, mother, wife. Inspiration: Two grandmothers, mother and daughter who have taught me community stewardship, family strength, manners, principles, fun. My daughter is a principal, has learned from these women, and continues to teach her two girls.

Emma Thwaites

Mother of three, attended Niagara District Secondary School and has business degree from Brock University. Works in office admin, food safety and human resources at Thwaites Farms. Inspiration: The past and present generations of women from the family farms around Niagara.

Sheila Tierney

Moved to Virgil in 1975 and was a town councillor in the 1980s. An active volunteer and board member of the NOTL hospital, museum and library. She canvassed for the Canadian Cancer Society for more than 50 years.

Lydia Tomek

Award-winning head winemaker at Ravine Vineyards. Previously with Hillebrand, Jackson-Triggs and Hernder Estates. A proud working mom who manages to balance family life with her career and community work. Inspiration: High school counsellor and teacher Fran Crnkovich. Encouraged me to never second guess or hold back but pursue what my heart tells me.

Megan Vanderlee

Mother of three great teens, full-time manager at The Lake Report, executive officer at Legion branch 124 and ladies auxiliary, co-founder of NOTL Youth Collective. Devoted community volunteer and a Starfleet wannabe. Inspiration: Gladys Green, my maternal grandmother, whose fierce support and gentle kindness gave me the courage to accomplish anything.

Tish Vigna

New to NOTL and thrilled to be here. A certified interior redesigner and home stager, helping people love their home again or help them take it to market. Inspiration: My closest friends from the last 30 years, spectacular entrepreneurial women, inspire me every day of my life.

Madison Vine

A manager for Andrew Peller Ltd., Tourism NOTL board member and chair of the board of Wineries of NOTL. Inspiration: My sister, Samantha Vine, who has the ability to light up a room and lift the people around her.

Adriana Vizzari

Town council, mother of four from St. Davids. Has always looked to strong women – those who lead their life with no limits – as role models. My daughters and I are so fortunate to be surrounded by such women. We read and learn about female trailblazers who came before us, soak up all their lessons and draw inspiration from them.

Town of NOTL chief administrator Marnie Cluckie is flanked by women representing the town’s leadership and citizen committee. (Dave Van de Laar)

Szilvia Vona

Owns Puppy & Dog Fashion on Queen Street. As a newcomer, immigrant and single mom I check all the challenging boxes of a young businesswoman. Inspiration: My godmother, who survived the Yugoslavian war and immigrated from Serbia to Hungary. Opened her own company 30 years ago, raised her  son alone and achieved everything that everyone told her would not be possible.

Niki Walker

Passionate about town’s cultural heritage and quality of life. Writer/editor, past co-chair of NOTL’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee. Active with many organizations, including the committee to restore the Niagara Baptist Church Burial Ground (Friends of the Forgotten Foundation). Inspiration: Laura Dodson, whom I knew when I was a child. She tirelessly championed community preservation and left an incredible legacy as a citizen, volunteer and activist.

Minerva Ward

President of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce and Tourism NOTL, her career has taken from the Caribbean, to British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. Now, she brings her business acumen, tourism management experience and leadership skills to Niagara. Inspiration: At my all-girls high school in St. Lucia, the principal, Sister Claire, instilled in us the discipline, drive, ambition, confidence, courage and boldness to be leaders.

Janice White
After 40 years in the corporate world, retired to NOTL in 2019 where she has had the opportunity to explore and photograph the beautiful Niagara region. Inspiration: No one in particular. Instead, I have relied on and pushed myself – not necessarily a bad thing.

Sabrina Wiens

Congregational care pastor at Cornerstone Community Church. Inspiration: As a child I gravitated toward stories of biblical women like Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Mary – all inspired by their faith in God, they made a difference in the world.

Women from NOTL’s business community were well-represented at Monday’s celebration. (Julia Sacco)

Terri-Lynn Woodhouse

Owner of One Earth in NOTL, a BIA and tourism board volunteer, and a certified living wage employer. Inspiration: Laura Secord, for her courage to make hard decisions and take action that would help others.

Barbara Worthy

Producer, writer, director, Shaw alumna, well-known for creating original productions focusing on local history and commemoration. Community engagement co-ordinator for the NOTL Museum. Inspiration: Isabelle Ede, editor of the Valley Echo, Invermere, B.C.  She taught me to trust my curiosity, the value of storytelling and the power of compassion and empathy.

Sumie Yamakawa

A dedicated advocate of the Niagara wine industry for over 20 years, now working at Inniskillin. A regular supporter of local women’s shelters and avid marathon participant. Inspiration: My mother, Naoko Yamakawa, who always lived life to the fullest.

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