A Conscientious Canadian Maverick

I just found out I’m a finalist for Chatelaine’s 2011 Women of the Year Awards, which is very exciting! While I was originally nominated for the 20-Under-30 category, when the finalists were announced, I’d been switched to “Mavericks.” I had to pause: me, a maverick?


According to their criteria, women in this category are “Trailblazers, pushing boundaries socially, politically, creatively or in business.” Several of the other finalists in this category are political powerhouses: Eva Aariak, premier of Nunavut; Sheila Fraser, former auditor general; Elizabeth May of the Green Party. Then there’s Buffy Sainte Marie, a folk singer and activist without equal. Last but not least are two high-ranking military women; the first female pipeline worker in Canada; and a motorcycling editor.

Buffy Sainte Marie

I guess by virtue of writing about Canada’s aviation history and being the first female president of the CAHS I am a little out of the ordinary. I certainly stand out in an aviation history crowd, but that’s slowly changing through groups like the Canadian 99s, Women in Aviation International, and writers like Shirlee Smith Matheson. Being an under-30 historian is also a little outside the norm (although I love elbow patches on tweed jackets!).

But based on the definition of maverick, I don’t think I really fit: I’m not a “lone dissenter,” or necessarily “pursuing rebellious, even potentially disruptive, policies or ideas.” No loose cannon here, I hope!

I would have to modify it by saying I’m a conscientious Canadian maverick. The very idea of a “maverick” is pretty American, I think. I envision a rugged individualist on a ranch in Wyoming (where I did live for two years). Being a Canadian, I’m a little more predisposed to social order and cohesion. Also, my main goal is preserving Canadian stories – in all their complexity – in a scrupulous and careful way. I try to be sensitive to all involved, and would never run roughshod over the people who entrust me with their photos, documents, and memories.

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.