Women have been eligible to become premier since they first gained the right to vote, beginning in 1916 in Manitoba and extending to all jurisdictions when Quebec allowed women to vote in 1940 (the Northwest Territories did not allow women to vote until later, but it did not have premiers at the time). Women soon began to be appointed to cabinet positions, starting with Mary Ellen Smith in British Columbia in 1921, but it was not until decades later that women began to serve as leaders of a major party. Hilda Watson became the first woman to lead her party to victory in a general election in 1978. However, since Yukon did not have premiers at the time, and Watson did not win her riding, her successor became the first Government Leader of the Yukon. The first female premier was Rita Johnston in 1991 in British Columbia. Today, every Canadian jurisdiction has had at least one female premier except for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. The longest-serving female premier is Eva Aariak, who served as premier of Nunavut from 2008 to 2013.
Two of the ten female premiers earned their positions through the consensus government systems that lack political parties. Of the remaining female premiers, only two won the title by defeating an incumbent premier in a general election. The rest won the title through a party leadership race, although many then went on to win a general election as the incumbent premier.
Named party leader while her party was in opposition in 1998. Led her party to victory and thereby became premier in the 2000 general election. She was the first woman to defeat a sitting premier. Her party lost power in the following general election.