1. News & Issues
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Elsie MacGill

By

Elsie MacGill, Queen of the Hurricanes

Elsie MacGill, Queen of the Hurricanes

Library and Archives Canada / PA-200745

About Elsie MacGill:

Elsie MacGill was the first woman to receive an electrical engineering degree in Canada and the first woman aircraft designer in the world. During World War II, Elsie MacGill oversaw the design and production of 1450 Hawker Hurricane airplanes in Canada, earning her the nickname "Queen of the Hurricanes." Elsie MacGill was also active in womens rights isssues and in 1967 was appointed to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

Birth:

March 27, 1905 in Vancouver, British Columbia

Death:

November 4, 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Education:

  • Degree in electical engineering - University of Toronto

  • Masters degree in aeronautical engineering - University of Michigan

Profession:

Aeronautical engineer and women's rights activist

Career of Elsie MacGill:

  • After graduating from the University of Toronto in 1927 with a degree in electrical engineering, Elsie MacGill worked at the Austin Automobile Company in Pontiac, Michigan. The company's move into aircraft production prompted Elsie MacGill to get a masters degree in aeronautical engineering.

  • In 1929, Elsie MacGill contracted polio, and was told she would never walk again. Eventually she was able to walk with the help of two canes.

  • In 1934, Elsie MacGill got her start in the aeronautical industry with a job as assistant engineer at Fairchild Aircraft in Montreal, working mainly on bush aircraft.

  • She moved to Canada Car and Foundry Co. (Can-Car) in Fort William, Ontario in 1938. As Chief Aeronautical Engineer, she designed the Maple Leaf Trainer II, used for training pilots.

  • In 1938, with World War II imminent, the RAF contracted Can-Car to design and build Hawker Hurricane airplanes in Canada, quickly. Elsie MacGill directed the production of the Hawker Hurricane in Canada, and designed modifications to equip it for cold weather, including skis and de-icing controls. Elsie MacGill supervised 4500 workers who produced about 1450 Hawker Hurricanes by the end of the war.

  • Elsie MacGill became a symbol of the economic changes in Canada in World War II and in 1942 a comic book "Queen of the Hurricanes" was written about her.

  • Elsie MacGill moved to Toronto and started a consulting firm specializing in aeronautical engineering.

  • In 1946, Elsie MacGill became the first female Technical Advisor to the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization. In this role she wrote the International Air Worthiness regulations for the design and production of commercial aircraft.

  • Elsie MacGill also devoted her time to women's issues, including paid maternity leave, day care facilities and liberalization of abortion laws.

  • In 1967 she was appointed to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

History of Aviation in Canada

For more on the history of aviation in Canada, see

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.