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Rosemary Brown

Stamp honours Woodward chair

February 18, 2009

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Rosemary Brown, Canada’s first black female MLA—and SFU’s second Ruth Wynn Woodward endowed chair in women’s studies (1987-88)—is one of two distinguished Afro-Canadians recognized this month with postage stamps to celebrate Black History Month.

The other is Abraham Shadd (1801-82), a free-born Delaware shoemaker and key “conductor” of the Underground Railroad guiding slaves to freedom in Canada, who moved with his family to Ontario in 1851, joining many of those he helped.

Brown (1930-2003) served as an NDP member of the B.C. legislature from 1972-86. In 1975, she became the first black woman (and second woman after Mary Walker-Sawka) to run for the leadership of a Canadian federal party, finishing a close second to Ed Broadbent at the NDP’s leadership convention. She was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 1995 and an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996.

Brown kept a busy pace during her tenure as the Woodward endowed chair, says women’s studies chair Mary Lynn Stewart, who spoke about her at a stamp-unveiling fundraiser Feb. 1 hosted by the National Congress of Black Women Foundation.

“She gave several keynote addresses to national and regional conferences, spoke at the UN Conference on Homelessness, prepared two TV programs for the Knowledge network on women and politics, and gave more than 40 community talks,” says Stewart.

“These talks covered a gamut of subjects including free trade, the Meech Lake Accord, lobbying, women and human services, advocacy for senior’s housing and racism in relation to sexism and feminism.

“Her interests in life being wide ranging, she was also involved with a CBC program Music in Your Life and gave a talk to the Victoria Status of Women on the ‘Joys of Being an Older Woman’.”

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Elias Stavrides

I was very happy to read that a well-deserved stamp is dedicated to the memory of Rosemary Brown. I first met her on my first year in Canada,1975, when she presided over a small ceremony at a newly NDP-funded centre for Greek immigrants on West Broadway in Vancouver where I worked as a translator. She had very kind eyes and a glowing personality. A great humanitarian. Her absence is still being felt...

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