Jane Jacobs: City Planning Visionary

By: Brooke Downey

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was a pivotal figure in reducing the gap between planning the city and living in the city. This idea was a core point in her most famous work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961).


Before becoming famous for her criticism of New York City planner, Robert Moses, Jacobs began her life in Scranton, Pennsylvania (before that was made famous by the sitcom The Office). While growing up, Jacobs showed an interest in writing and when she moved to NYC in 1935, many of her jobs related to journalism.


Her experience living in Greenwich Village made her an early proponent of mixed-use neighbourhoods. She saw the rising popularity of suburban-style development to be detrimental to neighbourhoods. In 1968, she was arrested for inciting a riot during a public meeting about the Lower Manhattan Expressway.


Not long after, Jacobs made her way to Toronto where she made her mark on a similar battle – the proposed Spadina Expressway. Neither of these projects would end up being built. She also helped to push for the planned revitalization of the St. Lawrence market to be mixed-use and mixed-income.


Every May cities across the world honour her work and their urban communities with Jane’s Walk.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 9.38.29 AM

Portrait by Emma Jenkin

Lillian McGregor: Aboriginal Educator & Community Leader

By: Brooke Downey

At the age of 15, Whitefish River First Nation member, Lillian McGregor (1924-2012), left her home of Birch Island, Ontario for Toronto. For over 70 years, McGregor would work to preserve and celebrate Aboriginal culture in the city.


While living in Toronto, McGergor worked as a nanny, factory worker during the war, and as a nurse before being appointed by the University of Toronto to be the first Elder-in-Residence at First Nations House. In this position, she worked on supporting and teaching Aboriginal students, encouraging them to remember their culture, language, and traditions. She also helped to establish the Native Canadian Centre in Toronto.


McGregor’s work would be recognized with an honorary doctorate in law from UofT in 1996 (the first Aboriginal woman to receive it), being made an Officer of the Order of Ontario in 2005, an Olympic torch bearer in 2010 and receiving the National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. She is remembered for her work in strengthening the Aboriginal community in an urban area.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 8.33.22 AM

Portrait by Emma Jenkin

Ursula Franklin: Scientist & Social Activist

By: Brooke Downey

Ursula Franklin was born in Munich, Germany in 1921. As the daughter of a Jewish mother, she and her family were sent to a labour and concentration camps during World War II. After the war ended, Franklin studied experimental physics at the Technical University of Berlin. A year after completing her Ph.D, she moved to Toronto after being offering a fellowship at the University of Toronto.


In 1967, she was the first woman to be appointed to UofT’s department of Mining and Metallurgy in the Faculty of Engineering. Her scientific contributions include pioneering the field of archaeometry, helping to get ban the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere after her research showed the presence of strontium-90 in children’s teeth, and her extensive work in environmental protection.


Franklin’s work both extended beyond science and incorporating her scientific research into her social causes. Much of her work in the field of technology looks at through a scientific and societal lens. She is a committed pacifist, feminist, and social activist with numerous papers and lectures on these topics.
The Ursula Franklin Academy in Toronto is named in her honour.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.16.21 PM

Portrait by Emma Jenkin

The International Ladies Garment Workers Union Protest

By: Brooke Downey

In today’s Toronto the Just series we’re honouring the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Their 10 week long protest begun 85 years ago today.


At the time of their protest, 1 in 4 women in Toronto were wage earners – often in the “unskilled’ jobs of the manufacturing, particularly garment, industry. Many of these jobs had poor working conditions with low wages, no job security, and long work hours.


On the morning of February 25th, 1931, the women of International Ladies Garmet Workers Union Local 72 walked off the job. A total of 500 women would join the protest. Their demands included: a 15% wage increase, shorter work weeks, union recognition, and impartial arbitration. During the protest, the protesters faced harassment and assault, some were even arrested.


Although they were ultimately unsuccessful, it is important to remember that their struggle for better wages, working conditions, and unionization is still one that is ongoing for many workers in our city today.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.28.10 PM

Portrait by Emma Jenkin

Mary Ann Shadd Cary: Anti-Slavery Activist & Pioneering Publisher

By: Brooke Downey

Born to free parents in 1823, Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893) spent her life fighting against slavery and for the advancement of Black people in North America.


Her activism began early with her parents who were supporters of the Underground Railway. However, Shadd Cary began her own activist work when she open a school for Black children in the slave state of Delaware. This would be the beginning of a lifelong commitment to education for people of colour.


Shadd Cary made her mark in Canada when she and many other escaped and free slaves sought refuge here when the Fugitive Slave Act (1850) was passed. Here she established her own newspaper – the first woman to do so in Canada and the first Black woman to do so in North America.


For the next few decades Shadd Cary continued her advocacy work through her teaching and was a frequent presence at conferences related to abolition, integration, and the promotion of Black communities in North America. She returned to the U.S. where she helped recruit Black soldiers for the Civil War and in 1883 she became the second Black woman to earn a law degree in the U.S.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.12.35 PM

Portrait by Emma Jenkin

Fran Odette: Scholar & Accessibility Advocate

By: Brooke Downey

The third woman we are highlighting in our Toronto the Just series is Fran Odette (1962-). We are honouring Odette for her lifelong commitment to exploring the intersections of gender and disability.

While a student at Carleton, she was the only one in her program with a visible disability. At the time, there was a lack academic work and literature discussing how gender and disability relate. Odette continued her work in this area by joining the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) which spurred a commitment to both understanding the barriers that exist and working on ways to dismantle them.

Odette has served on a number of different boards and agencies across the city, working on supporting and understanding the intersections between gender, disability, and sexuality especially when as it relates to violence against women. Currently she is a faculty member of George Brown College. You can learn more about Odette’s work in the book she co-authored with Miriam Kaufman – The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 10.32.53 PM

Portrait by Emma Jenkin

Doris Anderson: Journalist & Women’s Rights Advocate

Today, as part of our Toronto the Just exhibit with Heritage Toronto and Myseum Toronto, we’re taking a look at the life of Doris Anderson (1921-2007) an author, journalist, and women’s rights advocate.


From 1957-1977, Anderson was the editor of Chatelaine – a time when the magazine began to tackle issues like divorce, abortion, birth control, and child welfare. After she left Chatelaine, Anderson became the chair Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (CACSW), but resigned in 1981 when the National Conference on Women and the Constitution due to government interference.
She is also largely remembered for her efforts on lobbying the government to recognize gender equality in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will be commemorating Doris Anderson’s efforts on International Women’s Day at the launch of the Toronto the Just exhibit with a plaque at St. Lawrence Hall.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 6.12.28 PM

Portrait by Emma Jenkin

Jean Lumb: Community Activist

By: Brooke Downey

As part of our Toronto the Just exhibit with Heritage Toronto and Myseum Toronto, we will be highlighting eight women who helped define our city in their efforts to combat inequality and discrimination.

Jean Lumb (1919-2002) was the child of Cantonese immigrants and spent her childhood in Nanaimo, B.C. Lumb moved to Toronto at the age of 16 and soon after opened her own grocery store. A cultural and social justice advocate for the Chinese community, Lumb was the only woman delegate to meet with Prime Minister Diefenbaker to lobby for family reunification after the appeal of The Chinese Immigration Act (Exclusion Act).


So this Family Day, let’s not forget a time when our government pursued an immigration policy heavily discriminatory towards Chinese immigrants and their families. We will also continue this month recognizing women like Jean Lumb who spent their lives fighting for social justice and equality.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 6.00.53 PMPortrait by Emma Jenkin.