Rosemary Brown

Rosemary Brown"Brown is Beautiful"

Rosemary Brown was a politician, activist and feminist. Born in 1930, Jamaica, to a politically minded family, Brown immigrated to Canada in 1951, later becoming known for being Canada’s first Black female member of provincial legislature and the first woman to run for leadership of a federal political family.

Brown experienced what we could all imagine an adjustment moving to a new country, but she encountered both sexism and racism first-hand when applying for housing or summer jobs, or simply fitting into university life. Brown studied social work at McGill University (BA) and received her Masters of Social Work from the University of British Columbia. With her educational stream and inherent background in politics, it seemed to be a natural fit that Brown became so dedicated to making an impact to fixing the injustices she, herself experienced.

Before entering politics, Brown held jobs as a social worker and as a counsellor at Simon Fraser University. Her involvement with social groups and becoming a founding member of the Vancouver Status of Women, ultimately led to her becoming the first Black woman to sit in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and the first woman of African descent elected to a Canadian provincial legislature. With the slogan "Brown is Beautiful", Brown broke colour barriers.

Eliminating sexism in textbooks and educational curricula would seem daunting or near impossible, but Brown committed a committee to do just that and was also instrumental in establishing the Berger Commission on the Family, and in introducing legislation which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or marital status. We often forget those who fought for the rights we, as Canadians, hold to such esteem. Brown was definitely a key contributor in that fight in pushing out her voice that represented and spoke to so many, regardless of colour and gender.

Brown passed away in 2003 in Vancouver, British Columbia, but her work has continued to influence Canada, where in 2009, she was commemorated by being featured on a stamp by the Canada Post.

Some of Rosemary Brown’s Honours and Awards:

1973 UN Human Rights Fellowship
1993 Chief Commisioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commision
1995 Order of British Columbia
1996 Order of Canada
Received 15 honorary doctorates from universities across Canada


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