This is the first of my contributions to Black History Month. I loved Rosemary Brown from the moment she hit the national scene in Canada. I miss her voice so much and perhaps particularly now, when women’s rights are being sold out to an ailing economy by cynical politicians and economic inequality stemming from racism and sexism has created a great divide.
Rosemary Brown was elected to the provincial legislature of British Columbia in 1972, becoming the first black woman in Canadian history to be a member of a Canadian parliamentary body. A busy mother of three as well as an active member of the New Democratic Party, she ran for leadership of the federal NDP in 1975 but lost on a fourth ballot to Ed Broadbent. Rosemary served in the B.C. legislature until 1986, when she became a professor in women’s studies at Simon Fraser University.
Born in Jamaica, Rosemary grew up on the tropical island. After emigrating to Canada in 1951 she studied at McGill University and the University of British Columbia, then pursued a career in social worker. A determined feminist, Ms. Brown worked throughout her life to promote equality and human rights. Her campaigns includes efforts to eliminate sexism in textbooks, increase female representation on boards and prohibit discrimination based on sex or marital status. Rosemary’s dedicated community service won her a multitude of honours, including honorary degreees from many universities and selection as an officer of the Order of Canada.
On the day of Brown’s death, the National Film Board of Canada completed work on a documentary/memoir of Brown and her “co-grandmother, Ruth Horricks-Sujir. You can read a bit about it and view a clip here. I’ve seen it several times – it’s wonderful.