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  • Dr. Jen Marchbank

A Champion for Women

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1930 Rosemary Brown, PC, OC, OBC was the first Black woman to serve in the BC Legislature when she was elected in 1972. In fact, she was the first Black Canadian woman to be elected to any provincial legislature. She served for 14 years as a member of the New Democratic Party. In 1975 she ran for the Provincial NDP leadership, losing to Ed Broadbent, under her banner slogan of “Brown is Beautiful’.

Rosemary was a tireless advocate for social justice and for women’s rights with her work extending beyond Canada. In 1956 she was involved in the founding of the BC Association for the Advancements of Coloured People which worked on issues such as access to housing and employment and for human rights. She worked with MATCH, a non-governmental organisation focused on working with women in the developing world and was a founding member of the Vancouver Status of Women Council and became its first Ombudswoman.

Maintaining the focus of her work on equity and social justice she served as Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (1993-1996). She was a MLA until 1986, and was subsequently appointed as the Ruth Wynn Woodward professor in the Dept of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS) at SFU. Each year the Rosemary Brown Award for Women Committee and GSWS host a conference in her name and honour a BC woman or organisation that promotes Rosemary’s values and ideals. This September is the 5th conference and is entitled Women and Politics: Risk and Opportunity – details here - . Rosemary died in 2003 and in 2009 she was featured on a commemorative stamp. In 2017, as part of Canada’s 150 celebrations Rosemary was named on of Canada’s top 150 people.

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