MITCHELL, Margaret




Author Tags: Politics, Women

Not to be confused with the American author of the Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell has written Don’t Rest in Peace, Organize: Action for Canada's Children and Child Care (an NDP Minority Report) and an autobiography, No Laughing Matter: Adventure, Activism & Politics (Granville Island, 2008). The latter title refers to her pioneering efforts in the House of Commons to make her male colleagues take the issue of domestic violence seriously as a national issue in the 1980s. Her efforts to do as a long-serving NDP MP for Vancouver East were initially ridiculed.

Born in Brockville, Ontario on July 17, 1925, she earned a BA at McMaster University in sociology in 1947 and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Toronto soon thereafter. She worked overseas as a social worker for the Red Cross in the mid-1950s, in both Japan and Korea during the Korean War, and with Hungarian refugees in Vienna after settling in Vancouver in 1955. Her work as an advocate for low-income house in East Vancouver led to her political career as the NDP Member of Parliament for Vancouver-East from 1979 to 1993, elected four times. Margaret Mitchell served as critic for immigration and housing, health and welfare, status of women, multiculturalism and citizenship, and she was one of the first Canadian women to visit the People's Republic of China in 1973. She later became one of the first Canadian politicians to demand redress for Chinese-Canadians who had been forced to pay the head tax to enter Canada. Among her most significant involvements was the organizing of Chinese and non-Chinese neighbors to create the Strathcona Property Owner and Tenant Association, which led to the rehabilitation of older housing, new homes, and other community improvements.

In 1980, she voted against a pension increase for MPs and began diverting her share of her pay increase to a special account to help the poorest in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. In 1997, she donated her excess income from a holding account to establish a fund to empower Vancouver East women with scholarships and self-help programs via the Margaret Mitchell Fund for Women and Vancity. She also played a critical role in having women recognized in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In retirement from politics, she served as the first Chair of the B.C. Advisory Council on Human Rights and received the Helena Gutteridge Award for Community Service in 1996 and the Order of British Columbia in 2000. Mitchell’s late husband, Claude, established the Margaret Anne Mitchell Endowment Fund at SFU to help women from Vancouver East complete university.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Man Who Saved Vancouver: Major James Skitt Matthews


BOOKS:

Don’t Rest in Peace, Organize: Action for Canada's Children and Child Care (an NDP Minority Report)

No Laughing Matter: Adventure, Activism & Politics (Granville Island, 2008). $24.95 1-894694-65-0

[BCBW 2003 / 2008] "Politics" "Women"