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Gender-equality pioneer had a national impact

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A pioneer of pay equity for women in Manitoba is being mourned in Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2011 (3916 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A pioneer of pay equity for women in Manitoba is being mourned in Winnipeg.

Mary Eady, 85, died Nov. 16 in Ottawa, but it is her footprint in Winnipeg that senior members of the province’s feminist movement say deserves tribute.

Eady was a feminist in Canada’s labour movement and Manitoba’s governments under Ed Schreyer and Howard Pawley in the 1970s and 1980s. Along the way, she mentored women who rose to become leaders, and her groundbreaking research paved the way for pay equity.

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Myrna Phillips, a former Manitoba Speaker of the legislature, recalled how Eady took her under her wing and trained her in the women’s movement.

“Let people know what an absolute treasure she was to women in Manitoba and what a benefit she was to women across the country,” Phillips said.

In 1972, Eady became the first director of the Women’s Bureau in Manitoba. Five years later, she left to set up and head the women’s bureau for the Canada Labour Congress in Ottawa and then returned to Winnipeg as the first female deputy minister in the provincial government in 1982.

“Women’s position in Manitoba today would not be the same without Mary, and her contribution to women’s equality in Manitoba should be remembered,” recalled Beverly Suek, CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba and a former chairwoman of the Manitoba Advisory Council of Women.

Eady arrived in Manitoba when Ed Schreyer hired her husband, Francis, as his executive assistant. Francis died young of cancer and by the early ’70s Eady was a single mother with two young boys.

Schreyer hired her just as the women’s movement was gearing up in Manitoba.

Former NDP MP and MLA Judy Wasylycia-Leis said Eady’s role as a pioneer for pay equity in Manitoba stands out for another reason: Manitoba was the first government in Canada to pass pay-equity laws. In her later roles in Ottawa, she pushed for equality for women across the country.

On the day she died, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of pay equity for women at Canada Post.

Her friends say her favourite phrase was: “nils illegitimus carborundum.” Translation: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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