August 08, 2019

Meet Elsie MacGill (Scholastic Canada Biography)

Written by Elizabeth MacLeod
Illustrated by Mike Deas
Scholastic Canada
32 pp.
Ages 6-10
July 2019

Book 4 in the illustrated biography series Scholastic Canada Biography written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas focuses on Elizabeth (Elsie) MacGill, an aeronautical engineer–in fact, the first woman in the world to earn a master's degree in aeronautical engineering–and a staunch fighter for women's rights in Canada.
From Meet Elsie MacGill by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Mike Deas
Though born in 1905, when many girls did not have the same schooling opportunities as boys, Elsie was encouraged, like her siblings, to study hard and get a good education. She became the first woman in Canada to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, before becoming enamoured with aeronautics. Though stricken with polio, she earned her master's degree in aeronautical engineering and worked hard to recover and pursue her interest in planes. She tested airplanes and their designs before accepting the position as chief aeronautical engineer at the Canadian Car and Foundry Company.
From Meet Elsie MacGill by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Mike Deas
Now Elsie MacGill was designing planes and helping to build the Hawker Hurricanes which were needed for the war effort, as well as helping train women in the job of manufacturing parts and assembling them into the fighter planes.
From Meet Elsie MacGill by Elizabeth MacLeod, illus. by Mike Deas
After World War II, Elsie continued to place her mark in history, working for women's rights in Canada, advising the UN International Civil Aviation Organization and earning numerous accolades and awards.

There is so much to recognize in Elsie MacGill's accomplishments to science and engineering and women's rights that author Elizabeth MacLeod might have been challenged where to focus her story. However, she captures the big picture that is Elsie MacGill, from her family's push for education and women's rights–her trail-blazing mother, Helen Gregory MacGill, was one of Canada's first woman judges and a suffragette–to her education, illness, employment and push for equality. Elsie MacGill's life was extraordinary, as was she, and her accomplishments are featured fittingly in Meet Elsie MacGill without excessive text, the downfall of many biographies for young readers. With Mike Deas's illustrations, a blending of gouache, watercolours and ink media and digital tools, Elsie MacGill's story is given colour and form. The aeronautical engineer, determined to follow her engineering dreams into the skies, regardless of her need for a cane, goes to work on every page, whether repairing a lamp, creating blueprints for planes or shouting down a male chauvinist to help ensure equal rights for women.

It's sad that almost 40 years after Elsie MacGill's death in 1980, we are still trying to promote women in the sciences and engineering and fighting for equality in the world, just as Elsie MacGill had in the mid-20th century. But, with Elizabeth MacLeod and Mike Deas's story of this exceptional woman, girls and young women will know about Elsie MacGill's accomplishments which were all based on her determination to make the world a better place through hard work and egalitarianism.

Check out the earlier volumes in the Scholastic Canada Biography series written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas:

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