Full of Firsts
Finlayson earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto in 1936 with a certification in Taxonomy and Biological control. This was during the height of the Great Depression, but she was eager to gain employment from the Dominion Parasite Laboratory in Belleville, Ontario. Despite her qualifications, she was a woman in the 1930s, and being so, she was not about to enter this field so easily and was turned away. However, she was headstrong and adamant to be considered beyond her biology and sat on their doorstep, refusing to leave. Eventually, they realized they needed an extra pair of hands. She was asked to help on a project which finally led to her gaining employment, becoming one of the first woman scientists to enter the federal research branch.
However, this victory was shortly lived because she later married another entomologist, Roy Finlayson, and in the 1940s, married women could not work in civil service. When World War II hit and women were needed to fill the employment vacancies left by men, Thelma was hired. As you may expect, when the war came to a close, Thelma was let go once again. However, Thelma is not so easily swayed. The injustice towards her only made her passion for equality grow, and she fought to eventually earn the title of Assistant Deputy Minister and becoming a spearhead for Canadian women in STEM. Her influential work as an entomologist for the government even led to two insects being named after her, an oakworm moth, Anisota finlaysoni, and a wasp, Mesopolobus finlaysoni.