Ellen McIntyre (left) and Jo Napier (right) with portrait.
Edna May Best Sexton part of the first annual Great Women Portrait Show
By: Leigh Day and Darcy Fuller
On October 11th 2023, in the 100th year after her passing, May’s portrait was included in the first annual Great Women Portrait Show at the Prow Gallery in downtown Halifax. The Project is the endeavor of journalist and artist, Jo Napier. The project includes portraits including May’s, which was commissioned by Ellen McIntyre, Manager of Employee and Leadership Development for the Engineering and Technology team at Lockhead Martin Canada.
“When a girl closes her eyes to imagine a pioneer, scientist, engineer or inventor, I’d like her to see a female face, and be aware of the powerful paths that women have paved, particularly in traditionally male dominated fields,” says Jo.
Edna May Sexton was known for her striking intellectual ability, which lead her to enrolling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. May obtained a bachelor of science in chemistry, and went on to do industry work before moving to Halifax with husband, Frederic Sexton, who had appointed Dalhousie University. May’s gravestone reads, “Scientist, Orator and Philanthropist”, as she was a passionate advocate for women’s technical training. While May made numerous efforts to campaign for a technical institute for women, her proposals were turned down in the early 1900s. In 2005, May was named a Foremother of Nova Scotia. She is now featured in Merna Forster’s book, 110 More Canadian Heroines and was added to the online Dictionary of Canadian Biography by Lois Yorke. May is memorialized through the Dalhousie May Best Sexton Fund for Women in Engineering.
Jo’s first ten portraits were purchased by the Royal Bank of Canada for one of their boardrooms. Portraits commissioned before October 2024 will be displayed at the second Great Women Portrait Show.