Catherine Callbeck

Premier of Prince Edward Island • January 1993 to October 1996

She led the PEI Liberal Party to victory in 1993, making her the first woman in Canada to be elected as premier through a general election.

It can’t be overstated the significance of the Callbeck name when driving through rural Prince Edward Island. Street signs, recreational centres, and even a tailor shop bear the Callbeck moniker.

Callbeck was born in 1939 in Central Bedeque, Prince Edward Island into a successful business family. She was encouraged to follow the same path, completing a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Mount Allison University in 1960 where she was the only woman in the class.

This would prove to be the first of many times Callbeck would be dubbed as the only woman in the room.

She entered politics in 1974, when she was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, and was appointed to cabinet early in her tenure.

In 1988, she took the leap into federal politics, elected as a member of Parliament for the Liberal Party of Canada.

In 1993, she returned to provincial politics when she ran successfully for the leadership of the Prince Edward Island Liberal Party. She led the party through to victory in 1993, making her the first woman in Canada to be elected as premier through a general election. To date, she remains the only woman to have served as premier in Prince Edward Island. She led the province until 1996, when she resigned just weeks before the next election.

During her time as premier, she served in the Senate from 1997 to 2014. She currently serves as chancellor for the University of Prince Edward Island.

Why is it important to have women in political leadership roles?

“Women represent more than 50% of the population. That’s 50% of the brains. Men and women compliment one another – so when men and women both have input into decisions, we make better decisions,” she said.

Hear more about the Canadian women who have served as a First Minister by checking out our No Second Chances Podcast.