“I enjoy a strange kind of freedom”

An arrestingly optimistic statement from Rosemary Brown about her tireless work combatting sexism and racism in Canada.

Born in Jamaica in 1930, Rosemary Brown was the first Black woman to be elected to a provincial legislature. She was elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia on August 30, 1972 and would hold her seat for 14 years.

Brown was a pioneer in her unwavering stance that her race and her gender were equally important to her identity and her politics. Indeed, she took them as a strength, saying, “I enjoy a strange kind of freedom because in order to survive I have had to learn and learn well about racists and about sexists and about capitalists.”

A true trailblazer, Brown was the first Black woman to seek the leadership of a federal party in the NDP leadership race of 1975. She bested three other male candidates, but Ed Broadbent ultimately succeeded in the bid to lead the party.

Brown received 15 honorary doctorates, the Order of British Columbia (1995), and the Order of Canada (1996) in recognition of her extraordinary career. She died in 2003. In 2020, Brown’s legacy lived on as Annamie Paul became the first Black person to lead a major federal party in Canada. Paul’s victory corresponded with the start of tense and dramatic era for the Greens.

Image Source: Library and Archives Canada

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