In 1995, Canada was the first country to include women-in-canoe at its Nationals

By Wendy Perkins


I am sharing this post in honour of our own Sheila Kuyper who ignited a vision for women to paddle Canoe in the Olympics – just as men do.

She is an extraordinary paddler. In 1995, Canada was the first country to include women-in-canoe at its Nationals. Sheila set records that were unrivalled at the time and is known as Canada’s most decorated female canoeist, (8 Golds in 1997 alone) and she began to champion inclusion for women in canoe at the Olympics.

What a long road it proved to be! I am proud to have helped a wee bit along the way, and more proud that many others, including the mighty Pam Boteler continued the hard work and championed the cause – the sport will debut at the 2020 Olympic Games. Canadian Canoe Association awards the Sheila Kuyper trophy annually – a trophy that Sheila named the ‘Naomi Morris’ Trophy in honour of the Canadian woman who dressed as a man in order to compete at the Nationals in the 1930’s. Please read Pam’s notes on the picture below.

Pam: It has been 100 years since Miss Elizabeth Smith’s photo was first taken in a Canadian (high-kneel) canoe. She raced with Harry Knight for many years in the Tandem canoe (C2) and was quite good.



This photo shows they were the top WCC Mixed Tandem crew from 1918-1921.

Thanks to Scott Miller for playing with the original photo to clear up more details. He played with the levels and the contrast so you can now see details that had almost faded to nothing. You can clearly see the Washington Canoe Club logo on the front of the canoe, where in the original it was not visible.

Miss Smith’s musculature was incredible. This athleticism in women was intimidating at this time, but clearly not to Mr. Knight.

You can now see the other canoe in the background. Cars to the left, with a woman in a long dress/skirt and a man sitting, wearing a white flannel suit. (That was a typical dress for men in the 1920’s).

I’m sure Miss Smith would be excited to hear that 3 #womenscanoe events will debut on the Olympic Program in #Tokyo2020. We only wish she were able to compete in the Olympics alongside her male teammates, who helped demonstrate Canadian Canoeing and Kayak in the 1924 Olympics alongside the Canadian National Team. Canoe and Kayak became official events, for men only, in 1936.
1 women’s kayak event was added in 1948.
In 2020 – women will finally debut in Canoe.

Wendy Perkins, Commodore, Wai Nui O Kanaka Outrigger Canoe Club