Doris Anderson was editor of Chatelaine, Canada’s largest circulation magazine and a champion of women’s rights. Born in Calgary in 1925, she grew up and was educated in Alberta, earning her BA at the University of Alberta. In 1951, she joined the staff of Chatelaine as a staff writer, and worked her way up to the editorship. At Chatelaine from 1957-1977, Anderson wrote critical editorials about divorce, abortion, birth control, and child welfare. When she gave her talk in 1975, she was a director of Maclean-Hunter Limited and the MacMillan Publishing Company. In 1974, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. Upon leaving Chatelaine, she became chair of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, created to advise government and educate the public about women’s issues. She resigned from this position in 1981 after the government cancelled the National Conference on Women and the Constitution. Her ongoing advocacy for women’s rights led to her being promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2002. She held an honorary LLD degree from the University of Alberta, and other honorary degrees from Dalhousie, Ryerson, Concordia, the University of Waterloo, York, and Simon Fraser University. She died in 2007.

The series “Human Dignity and the Experience of Women” to mark International Women’s Year concluded with Anderson’s talk. Anderson discussed the status of women in Canada and the ongoing activism of the women’s movement, which she said was not a passing fad or aberration but a movement that would continue to deeply change Canadian society. Anderson described the urgency of the current moment in 1975, as the threat of economic recession was always a particular threat to women, who were encouraged to work in times of prosperity and thrown out in times of recession. She reflected on the inadequate response to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and argued that women needed real reform more than rhetoric. Potential reforms she discussed included affordable and accessible childcare and pensions for housewives. Even changes that had been established in principle, like equal pay, didn’t exist in practice. Anderson spent a significant amount of her talk discusses the role of motherhood and especially the treatment of housewives. The economic value of a housewife, she explained, was conservatively over $10,000/year, yet they were not eligible for their own pension plan, for co-ownership of the marital home they poured hours of labour into, or any significant financial security in the event of divorce. Anderson ended by discussing the need for both men and women to learn how to reject gender roles. Women’s liberation was essential to provide the talent needed to face the challenges of the 1970s and beyond.

Anderson’s lecture was held on January 15, 1975. Listen to her lecture below.

Doris Anderson delivers her Dunning Trust lecture.
The poster for the series “Human Dignity and the Experience of Women.”