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Woodcock, George

  • Person
  • 1912-1995

George Woodcock was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was raised and educated in England where, in the late 1930s, he met many members of London's literary circle including Dylan Thomas, Roy Campbell, Herbert Read and George Orwell. Woodcock returned to Canada in 1949 and joined UBC's Department of English seven years later. He became editor of the newly-formed journal Canadian Literature and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1977. In Canada Woodcock is best known as a poet, critic, dramatist and social commentator, while in England he is recognized as an author of travel books, political commentator and biographer. Throughout his career, Woodcock received numerous awards and honorary degrees.

Woodsworth, James Shaver

  • Person
  • 29 July 1874 – 21 March 1942

James Shaver (J.S.) Woodsworth was born on 29 July, 1874 in Etobicoke, Ontario. He is the son of James Woodsworth – a Methodist minister – and Esther Josephine Shaver. Religion played a large part in his upbringing as his father’s ministry took the family west to Manitoba and he followed in those footsteps becoming ordained himself in 1896. He attended the University of Toronto and Oxford University, which planted the seeds for his interest in social welfare, the morality of war and imperialism, and his questioning of traditional religious dogma. James spent years working with poor and immigrant families in Winnipeg, during which time he cemented his position on democratic socialism while campaigning for social welfare issues such as compulsory education, poverty relief, collective bargaining and labour rights.
By 1916 James had published two books, travelled extensively through the Canadian prairie provinces conducting research on social issues and lecturing, and become an outspoken opponent of the use of the Church as a means of recruitment for the war effort. He was transferred to a posting in Gibson’s Landing, British Columbia in 1917, from which he tendered his resignation from the Church in 1918 in opposition to their support of World War I. In order to make ends meet James joined a longshoreman’s union, worked as a stevedore in Vancouver for a year and published articles in a labour newspaper.

James embarked on a tour of Canada in 1919 and found himself in Winnipeg during the week of the eponymous general strike. In addition to attending meetings and organizing a protest he wrote several editorials following the arrest of a number of strike leaders, for which he was himself arrested for seditious libel. The charges were dropped but James remained a popular figure and in 1921 he was elected to Parliament representing Winnipeg North Centre. He held this seat until his death in 1942.
While in office James pushed an agenda that included unemployment insurance, parliamentary reform, labour rights, improved social measures and an old-age pension plan that eventually became the cornerstone of Canada’s current social security system. In 1932 he was actively involved in the formation of a new socialist party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) which in later decades evolved into the New Democratic Party (NDP). By 1935 the CCF held 7 seats in Parliament and James Woodsworth was elected leader of the party. Maintaining his pacifist beliefs from the First World War, in 1939 he was the only person to vote in opposition to Canada’s declaration of war in what became World War II. As a result he lost his leadership position, but was reelected for a final time in 1940. Later that year and already in declining health, James suffered a stroke. He passed away in Vancouver on 21 March, 1942.
James Woodsworth was survived by Lucy Staples Woodsworth, his wife of 38 years, and his six children. His eldest daughter Grace followed her father’s footsteps in politics as a MLA in British Columbia and as the first woman from B.C. to be elected to Parliament.

Woodsworth, Lucy Lillian

  • Person
  • 1874 - 01- March 1976

Lucy Staples was born in Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Richard and Hannah Staples. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 1901 and the following year was certified to teach high school-level modern languages and history. In 1903 Lucy was engaged to long-time friend James Shaver Woodsworth; they married the following year.
Together Lucy and James had 6 children, with Lucy often managing the household during James’ frequent travels, first as a minister and then as a politician – helping him draft speeches and even delivering some of her own. She served as a delegate for the Women’s International League in 1923 and also found work as a nurse, providing end-of-life care for multiple family members. Throughout her life Lucy was an ardent communicator, producing an almost-daily output of letters with subjects ranging from family commentary to political observations.
Lucy Staples Woodsworth died on 01 March, 1976 at the age of 102

Working Women Unite

  • Corporate body

Working Women Unite was formed to create links between working women and the women's movement. The group focused on issues of women and work, and sought to create a relationship with trade unions that would further the position of women in the work force. Specifically, Working Women Unite sought to encourage the formation of women's committees within local unions, discuss strategies on how to organize in a non-union job, articulate feminist demands for working women to take to their unions when negotiating new contracts, and to recognize the value of all women's work regardless of whether it was paid or unpaid. The group also held conferences, workshops, and seminars on issues such as unpaid work, immigrant female workers, women in unions, women working in the home, equal pay for equal work, and the effects of video display terminals in the workplace.

Working Women Unite emerged from the British Columbia Federation of Women (BCFW) during its convention in 1977. During this convention the lack of representation for working women within the BCFW was addressed by a group of women, primarily members of the Service, Office, and Retail Workers Union of Canada (SORWUC), who met and formulated resolutions that were passed at the convention. It was not until 1978 that the group gained momentum with a broader base of support. Women from unions such as the British Columbia Government Employees Union (BCGEU), Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), SORWUC, Letter Carriers Union of Canada (LCUC), and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), along with non-unionized women, and women in the home, became involved with the group. Structurally, Working Women Unite remained within the BCFW, a federation of women's groups in British Columbia working toward liberation of women through fundamental social change.

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