Project Description


The cards were stacked against Doris Anderson from the start. Born out of wedlock in 1921 and placed in a home for unwanted babies in Calgary, Doris had almost no chance at all. Even after her mother reclaimed Doris from the orphanage a few months later, it seemed unlikely that she would rise above the challenges that surrounded her – illegitimacy, poverty, a single-parent home. And yet she did, going on to become a journalist, author, legendary women’s rights activist and long-time iconoclastic editor of Chatelaine Magazine. Early on Doris demonstrated a keen eye for social justice, particularly when it came to the role of women in society. When she started school she quickly noticed that men and boys held higher status that women and girls, for no particular reason that she could see. “The most puzzling lesson, which hadn’t made an impression on me before, was that boys rated higher than girls. Up to that point, my experience with boys was that they weren’t much different from girls. In school, the boys seemed rather backward,” she later wrote in her autobiography, Rebel Daughter. “Nonetheless, boys received special treatment from the teacher… The fact that they received these unearned distinctions simply because of their sex seemed unfair to me even then, at the age of six.” Doris put herself through school, looked beyond the three careers open to women at the time – secretary, nurse or school teacher – and broke into the male-dominated field of journalism. Taking the editorial helm of Chatelaine magazine from 1957 to 1977 she wrote forcefully about important issues such as abortion, child care, child custody, and pay equity at a time when most women’s magazines were focused on homemaking. Her strong voice and leadership within the feminist movement in Canada extended beyond her work in journalism to her role as chair of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women and she led the fight to enshrine women’s equality in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.