A great Canadian dies - farewell to Doris Anderson | National Union of Public and General Employees

A great Canadian dies - farewell to Doris Anderson

(Mar 15, 2007) -- 'Doris Anderson was an important journalist, women’s rights champion and activist.  Canada mourns her loss, but celebrates a remarkable life.'



Doris Anderson was an important journalist, women’s rights champion and activist who died early this month in Toronto. She was 85.

During the 1960s and 1970s, subjects that today we discuss with relative ease, if not outright calm, were subjects that elicited rancorous and often ignorant attacks from those who found them to be, at best difficult and at worst, threatening. Think of issues such as abortion, birth control, rape and child abuse. Or issues like discriminatory divorce laws or the wage gap between women and men. These were just a few of the issues that Doris Anderson tackled as editor of Chatelaine Magazine and in her career as a women’s rights activist.

As I write this in 2007, it is difficult to convey the depth of anger and vituperation that was heaped on women like Doris Anderson. It was so alarming to the establishment to hear that many women, and some men, believed that a woman had the right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.

Divorce proceedings relegated a woman to being chattel. Laws of the day placed all the blame on women for divorce, giving most, if not all, the family assets to the husband. The horrid, little secret of violence against women was virtually locked out of public discussion. It just wasn’t talked about. The prevailing attitude seemed to be that women who were victims of spousal abuse got what was coming to them. It was somehow a failure on their part to manage the relationship.

In some unions, including my own, there were women trade unionists who took up the call to action from leaders like Doris Anderson. These were brave women who confidentially asserted that women’s rights were an integral part of any democratic union.

Women pioneers prevailed

Conventions and union meetings were often characterized by passionate debates that slowly – motion by motion – opened up ways for union women to freely express ideas and implement policies that reflected their values and expectations. It was not easy. The rough and tumble politics was often mean-spirited and uninformed, but the women of the day prevailed, thank goodness. Our unions today are much better because of their commitment and courage.

Doris Anderson made a difference and Canada is better for it.

Unfortunately, today some believe that Canadian feminism is irrelevant – that Canadian women have achieved equality and there is no need for feminist activists. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. Nothing could be further from the truth. Feminists are indispensable catalysts for change – change that produces positive results in the daily lives of girls and women both here in Canada and around the world.

Recently, Canadian Woman Studies at York University produced an issue entitled Canadian Feminism in Action. It can be obtained at this address. Get a copy, read about a host of studies that showcase feminist activism and then pass it along to others.

Bravo and thank you Doris Anderson!

James Clancy
National President