Herstory 2015 preview: Centenarian Thelma Finlayson

Thelma Finlayson, via Simon Fraser University.

Thelma Finlayson, via Simon Fraser University.

Born in 1914, Thelma Finlayson is a retired entomologist living in Burnaby, B.C. She was the first woman to be hired at Dominion Institute for Biological Control, but when she married in 1940, government regulations restricting married women from public service forced her to retire.1 Later, she and other female scientists fought the regulation, and won.

Her lengthy publishing career extends from 1938 to 2012, and she has two insect species named after her: a moth (Anisota finlaysoni) and a wasp (Mesopolobus finlaysoni).2 She’s spent over four decades volunteering as a student adviser,3 and has received many honours for her work, including the Order of Canada. To read all about this amazing woman, pick up a copy of the new calendar!

At the beginning of July, the herstorian who profiled Thelma had a chance to meet her in person. Kristine Flynn was in Vancouver for work, so she delivered Thelma’s complimentary copy of the calendar in person.

“Thelma Finlayson turned 100 just a couple of weeks ago,” said Kristine of the visit. “I visited her in her condo on the 18th floor of a highrise in Burnaby overlooking the Sky Train. When I commented that her view must be very different from when she moved to the city, she shared stories of travelling around her hometown in Ontario by horse and buggy and her first rides in her father’s motorcar.

“She is a delightful person who insisted on giving me a big hug on my way out. After researching her life and interviewing her by phone, it was like meeting a celebrity. I had a giant smile on my face for the rest of the day. It was a wonderful experience and one that would not have been possible without Herstory.”

While Herstory focuses on the many amazing women who have made a difference in Canada, the calendar is also a fantastic experience for the people who are involved in producing it!

1 Finlayson, Thelma. Interview with Simon Fraser University, July 2011. http://youtu.be/zFkvHe9XGLc
2 Western Front Insect Work Conference, “Photos from the WFIWC Archives: WFIWC — General.” http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wfiwc/admin/history/general-2.htm
3 “Finlayson made the twice-weekly post-retirement trips to campus — by taxis when she could no longer drive — until [2009] when, at 95, she was no longer physically able to do so.” Simon Fraser University.

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