Rosemary Brown (1930 - 2003)
Rosemary Brown was the first black woman to become a member of any Canadian Parliament (federal or provincial). Born and raised in Jamaica, she moved to Canada at age 20 to study at McGill University in Montreal. Despite confronting serious racism and sexism, Brown accomplished great things during her career.
- She earned a Masters degree in Social Work at UBC, was President of the BC Council of Black Women and a founding member of the Vancouver Status of Women Council, the Vancouver Crisis Centre and the BC Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.
- Her slogan was “Brown is beautiful.” She wrote a book called Being Brown: A Very Public Life.
- In 1972, Brown won a seat in the provincial legislature and in 1975 became the first black woman to run for the leadership of a federal government party (the NDP). She finished second.
- Brown put in place a committee to remove sexism from school materials and programs. She served as an MLA until 1986, when she retired from government. After teaching for a few years at Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and UBC, she became CEO of MATCH International, an agency that promotes women’s issues around the world. Later, Brown served as Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
- She was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 1995, the Order of Canada in 1996 and in 2009, Canada Post created a postage stamp in her honour.