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Themes - Activism

Muriel Duckworth

Photograph of Muriel Duckworth

(1908-2009)

Social and community activist

Source


For more than 60 years, Muriel Duckworth has worked as a tireless crusader and advocate for social justice and change through her involvement with numerous organizations supporting peace initiatives, social reform and educational development.

After graduating from McGill University in 1929, Muriel pursued graduate studies at the Union Theological Seminary in New York and during this period became involved in community work with young women. Moving back to Montreal in 1930, Muriel and her husband continued their considerable involvement with the Student Christian Movement in addition to several other community organizations. With an ongoing commitment to adult education, Muriel then spent the next fourteen years in Halifax as program and parent education adviser for the Nova Scotia Department of Education.

It is for her intense and committed involvement in the Voice of Women (VOW), however, that Muriel Duckworth is perhaps best known. The VOW was founded in Toronto as an organized response to the failure of the Paris Peace talks in 1960 and the subsequent concern for world peace. As a founding member, Muriel became involved immediately, forming a Halifax chapter within the next few months. In 1967, she became national president of VOW and that same year represented the organization as the delegate to the International Conference of Women for Peace in Moscow. Two years later, as the Vietnam War continued, Muriel and other VOW members were instrumental in arranging a tour, with public meetings across Canada, for three South Vietnamese women. Muriel represented VOW at several international conferences and in 1982, chaired a delegation of representatives to present the Women's Petition for Peace to the United Nations's Second Special Session on Disarmament.

The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), which is committed to community-based research and scholarship, was established in 1976 with Muriel as one of its founding members. In addition to working for the Nova Scotia chapter of CRIAW, she worked on its national board before becoming national president for the years 1979 to 1980. Muriel was also a founding member of a number of other organizations including the Canadian Conference on Education, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the Nova Scotia Women's Action Coalition, and the Movement for Citizens' Voice and Action Halifax.

Concern for social reform led very naturally to political involvement. As a provincial NDP candidate in 1974 and 1978, Muriel campaigned rigorously supporting numerous social issues such as health care, education, day care and women's equality, in addition to economic development.

There have been many honours bestowed on Muriel over her lifetime, notably the Persons' Award in 1981, the Companion of the Order of Canada in 1983, and the Lester B. Pearson Peace Medal in 1991 and numerous honorary degrees from various universities across Canada. In 1981, the Muriel Duckworth Award was established by CRIAW, to be presented annually to a woman making a significant contribution to the advancement of women within Canada.

Over the last several decades, Muriel Duckworth played an integral role in the evolution and development of Canadian women's social and peace movements at local, provincial and national levels. It is her ability to initiate and mobilize community activism, her compassion for peoples of all nations, and her ongoing and steady commitment to creating a more equitable and better world that are perhaps her most notable achievements.

Resources

Ball, Christine. — "Muriel Duckworth, peace worker". — Canadian woman studies = Les cahiers de la femme. — Vol. 9, no. 1 (Spring 1988). — P. 42-45

Bowes, Nancy. — "Portrait of an active pacifist". — Halifax chronicle-herald. — (November 16/17, 1996). — P. C7

Dorey, Barry. — "Social activism earns six women honours from Elixabeth Fry Society". — Halifax chronicle-herald. — (March 29, 1999). — P. A3

Erskine, Bruce. — "Striving for peace in her time". — Halifax chronicle-herald. — (December 13, 1996). — P. D2

Eve, Elizabeth. — "A torch for peace". — Atlantic books today. — No. 15 (Winter 1996). — P. 8

Kerans, Marion Douglas. — Muriel Duckworth : a very active pacifist : a biography. — Halifax, N.S. : Fernwood Publishing, c1996. — 239 p.

Kerans, Marion Douglas. — "Muriel Duckworth : the peace movement's best friend". — Peace magazine. — (October/November 1988). — P. 8-9

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