Rosemary Brown, a Canadian political fixture

Rosemary Brown
Tue, 1930-06-17

Rosemary Brown was born on his date in 1930. She was an African Canadian politician and activist.

Born and raised in Jamaica, young Brown came from a home of strong, educated, political women. She moved to Canada in 1950 to study at McGill University in Montreal. Canadian racism was the custom and no white Canadian girl wanted to be her roommate. Only West Indians and a few white friends would even speak to her. Landlords and employers rejected her for jobs and apartments, and this experience was repeated when she moved to Vancouver in 1955.

It was in British Columbia (BC) that she married Bill Brown, supporting him while he finished his MD degree. They joined the BC Association for the Advancement of Colored People (BCAAP), and she joined the Voice of Women. Brown remained active in those groups and became a mother of their first two children. In the early 1960s, she began social work, leading to a weekly national television program called, "People in Conflict." By 1967, Brown had unyielding depression. A copy of "The Feminine Mystique" was reassuring to her and helped her mobilize herself. But she felt a conflict that white women did not understand--racism--and people of color did not find sexism a major issue. She explained her perspective in a 1973 speech, saying in part, "To be Black and female in a society which is both racist and sexist is to be in the unique position of having nowhere to go but up!"

With that spirit to sustain her, Brown started as a volunteer Vancouver Ombudswoman. She entered provincial politics in 1972 because she was on the Board of the Vancouver Status of Women, and VSW was urging women to run. Brown became MLA for Vancouver-Burrard, the first Black woman elected to the BC legislature, and went on to serve as a MLA for 14 years until 1986. In 1988, Brown took a job in Ottawa, as CEO for MATCH International, an international development agency run by and for women. MATCH quickly became Rosemary Brown's central work. She was CEO for three years, then Special Ambassador, and she served as President.

From 1993 to 1996, Brown served as Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. She was constantly in demand as a public speaker, and her MATCH work brought her too much satisfaction to give it up. The turning of the new century brought Brown her seventh grandchild and her third attempt at retirement. She and Bill were married for 45 years until The Honourable Rosemary Brown, PC, OC, O.BC, CD (Jamaica) passed away at 72 years of age. She died on April 26, 2003, at her home in Vancouver, probably of a heart attack.

204 37th Ave N, #330
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Evelyn Myrie, Black History Committee
Hamilton Ontario

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Person / name: 

Brown, Rosemary