A Guide to Women in Canadian History

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Rosemary Brown (1930-2003)
Politician, feminist
Rosemary Brown
Rosemary Brown, 1990.
(Barbara Woodley/Labatt Breweries of Canada/National Archives of Canada/PA-186871)

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.

Discover more

  • Braithwaite, Rella and Tessa Benn-Ireland. Some Black Women: Profiles of Black Women in Canada. Toronto: Sister Vision Press, 1993.
  • Brown, Rosemary. Being Brown. Toronto: Random House, 1989.
  • Sadlier, Rosemary. Leading the Way: Black Women in Canada. Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1994.


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