As editor of Chatelaine magazine from 1957 to 1977, Doris Anderson was a powerful voice for women’s rights in Canada, broaching contentious issues such as abortion, family abuse, divorce reform, pay equity and the problems of working mothers. “She set the feminist agenda in Canada,” said Michele Landsberg, an activist writer who worked at Chatelaine. 1
Hilda Doris Buck was born out of wedlock in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in 1921, the daughter of Rebecca Buck and Thomas McCubbin of Calgary. She was placed in a home for unwanted babies but later her mother changed her mind. When Doris was seven, Rebecca married Thomas, which the young girl strongly resented. 2
Doris taught in rural schools to earn tuition for university, completing a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Alberta. After a sojourn in Europe, she landed a job writing ads for Chatelaine, rising to the position of associate editor. When the male editor left Chatelaine and Doris learned the position was going to another man, she threatened to quit. Grudgingly, she was offered the top job. 3
Doris married David Anderson and, at 37, gave birth to the first of three sons. At the time, Maclean Hunter (then owner of Chatelaine) required that female employees quit at the fifth month of pregnancy. Doris refused and, again, the company gave in. She and David divorced amicably in 1972.
Doris advocated for more women in politics and, in 1978, ran unsuccessfully for the Liberal party. The following year, she was appointed chair of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. However, she ran afoul of the Trudeau government over the wording of the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She resigned her position and mobilized a groundswell of protest across the country, resulting in Section 28 guaranteeing that Charter rights applied “equality to male and female persons.”
Doris served as president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and, for ten years, was a columnist for the Toronto Star. In 1992, she became chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island. She was a Companion of the Order of Canada and awarded honorary degrees from the universities of Alberta, Waterloo and Simon Fraser. She died in Toronto of pulmonary fibrosis in 2007 at 85.
Anderson, Doris. Rebel Daughter. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1996.
Black, Debra. “Doris Anderson, 85: Changed face of feminism. Equality champion got women’s rights included in Charter” Toronto Star, 3 March 2007. http://www.thestar.com/news/obituaries/2007/03/03/doris_anderson_85_changed_face_of_feminism.html
Photo courtesy University of Prince Edward Island.
2. Anderson, 29.
3. Anderson, 130.