Woodsworth legacy remembered

September 22, 2005, vol. 34, no. 2
By Marianne Meadahl

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He never met his famous grandfather, but Glenn Woodsworth says his own thoughts about social problems were profoundly influenced by the man who helped shape B.C.'s labour politics early in the last century.

In conjunction with a conference called Human Rights and Social Activism, Rethinking the Legacy of J.S. Woodsworth at SFU Vancouver's Harbour Centre campus Sept. 22-24, he's launching a book, A Prophet at Home, an Intimate Memoir of J.S. Woodsworth, featuring three of his grandfather's previously unpublished letters.

The 54-page book also contains a reminiscence of him by his son Charles, likely penned in the late 1940s, as well as the letters written to his family, including two written during the Winnipeg Strike in 1919 and one written to his daughter, Grace MacInnis.

“My main purpose is to make sure the material isn't lost,” says Woodsworth, who published the book with his wife, Joy, through their small publishing company, Tricouni Press.

His grandfather died in 1942, the year before Glenn Woodsworth was born. But he knew his grandmother, Lucy, well. “She lived to be 102 and was an amazing, strong woman,” he recalls. “I knew three of their six children well, one being my father, Ralph, who it was generally agreed, was most in tune with my grandfather's social ideas, particularly on war. I feel that I retain many of my father's ideals, and in that way, feel the influence of my grandfather.”

J.S. Woodsworth was a central figure in labour politics, including the birth of the CCF-NDP and the creation of the founding policies of the welfare state.

Beyond celebrating his achievements, conference participants will re-open the debates that were central to his thinking in light of legal, social and political change in B.C. The book will be available at the conference.

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