Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta 3rd Woman of Inspiration 2015-2016 Presented by Syncrude Announced

August 24 2015

Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta’s 3rd Woman of Inspiration 2015-2016 Presented by Syncrude Announced

(Fort McMurray) Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude are proud to announce the 3rd nominee for the Women of Inspiration series 2015-2016:

Frances Jean

Mrs. Jean relocated to Fort McMurray in 1967 when her husband Bernard took a job with G.C.O.S. (Suncor) She quickly did an assessment of her new community and combined her passions for reading and gardening and started her first business venture with her husband – Jeans Gifts and Stationary. The store sold books, bedding plants, canoes, fine china, crystal and office supplies and much more. The population of McMurray at the time was 1500 people. She would travel to Fort Chipewyan to provide them with stationary and any other items they might need. This store remained a fixture in Fort McMurray for many years and many people enjoyed the experience of visiting and buying gifts in Jean’s Gifts and Stationary.

Mrs. Jean then undertook to publish the community’s first newspaper – the McMurray Courier as the reporter, writer and editor. Mrs. Jean opened the doors for young girls and women today by challenging the male dominated attitudes of the early 60’s. She was invited to attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting to do a story on Walter Hill. Once she had taken photos and made notes, she was required to leave the meeting as women were not permitted to attend. After mulling over this inequity Mrs. Jean wrote a scathing editorial in which she chastised the Chamber for its exclusion of women. Her rationale being that if she was good enough to do a story, she was good enough to be a Chamber member. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Jean, Alice Haxton and Grace Defoe became the first female members of the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce in 1972.  Mrs. Jean became the first female Director of the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce. Fast forward 43 years and it is evident that this accomplishment laid the grounds for women of today to be thriving members of the community and the Chamber and contribute greatly to the success and stability of business within the region.  Mrs. Jeans experiences covering the male only council meetings was at first daunting as she was the only female reporter in the smoke filled council chamber with Sam Hardin as the Mayor. She persevered and today it is not uncommon to have female reporters in all aspect of the media. Mrs. Jean would say that she was unaware that she was overcoming gender barriers, to her she was just doing what needed doing and demonstrating a strong Northern sense of adventure.

Another successful business venture for Mrs. Jean was the Print Shop which was on Franklin Ave. and which operated for 30 years. To this day Mrs. Jean puts in a 50 hour work week at the City Centre Car Wash and manages her property holding through City Centre Group. On her 80th birthday she launched her book “More Than Oil: Trappers, Traders and Settlers of Northern Alberta”. She is up every morning by 5 am and is busy baking for family and friends and a loaf of her homemade bread is coveted by many.

Mrs. Jeans community volunteerism includes being on the Board of Directors of Heritage Park,  she was a member of the Fort McMurray street naming committee, served on the Board of the Fort McMurray Airport Authority and was a Director for the Downtown  Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) committee.

Mrs. Jean has been acknowledged by being the recipient of: Alberta’s Retail of the Year Award; 1994 Alberta’s Small Businessperson of the Year; 1997 Keyano Distinguished Citizen Award and the Rotary Club of Fort McMurray Integrity Award.

One of her all- time favourite adventures was to travel to England as an invitee to Buckingham Palace to have Tea with the Queen in the Royal Gardens. This once in a life time event still brings a smile to her face. Mrs. Jean was acknowledged in Parliament by her son Brian Jean – the MP for the Athabasca riding. Brian commended his mother as being “a trail blazer, a world traveler, a master cook and baker, who continues to work 50 plus hours per week and is the most honest person I know. She also works tirelessly to serve her family, her community, and Canada.”

Having spent almost a half a century in Fort McMurray, Mrs. Jean epitomizes the core values of Strong, Smart and Bold values that have inspired the Women of Inspiration Award. She is truly inspiring to all she comes into contact with.

Girls Inc. Northern Alberta and Syncrude will honour Mrs. Jean and 11 other nominees, at the Women of Inspiration Celebration which will take place in June 2016

The Women of Inspiration is a partnership between Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude, with a goal to recognize women throughout the Wood Buffalo region who inspire others, break new ground or old barriers and help create change. The series also aims to show local girls positive role models who live right here.

To nominate a woman of inspiration, please visit our website at or contact the Girls Inc. office at 780-790-9236.
For more information, please contact:

Ann Dort-MacLean
Executive Director – Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta
Phone: 780-790-9236