From the archives: Judy LaMarsh (Herstory 1977)

Judy LaMarsh, via the Niagra Falls Public Library.

Before her entry into politics, Judy LaMarsh had trained as a teacher, mastered drafting and the Japanese language while in the army, and had realized her life-long ambition to become a lawyer. Her ability won her the Minister of Health and Welfare portfolio after the 1963 election. During the next eight years, her determined leadership ensured the passage of the Canada Pension Plan. Canadians can be grateful to Judy for single-handedly persuading the Cabinet to hook the pension plan to an index, and to lower the eligibility for old-age security payments to age sixty-five. Ms. LaMarsh is also responsible for the introduction of Youth Allowances, and for organizing the framework for the National Medical Insurance Plan.

Judy LaMarsh

Art work used as the cover of Judy LaMarsh’s biography “Memoirs of a bird in a gilded cage,” via the Niagra Falls Public Library.

She instigated the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Women’s groups across the country, organized by Mrs. Laura Sabia, were so enthusiastic in their response to the idea of such a commission that Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson reluctantly agreed to it and asked Judy LaMarsh to appoint its officials.

Judy LaMarsh wrote Memoirs of a Bird in a Gilded Cage after she left the “parliamentary fishbowl,” wiser, very tired, and much poorer than when she entered it, but with a bright vision of finally being able to run her own life. A ten-day trial convinced her that managing a cosmetics firm was not for her. She made the same decision when she left the CBC in April 1976. Besides practicing law, she now teaches law at Osgoode Hall, and has many other interests. She has leisure to enjoy friends and her home. Hers is a success story. She tried the rat-race, did very well, and has had the courage to choose instead to live her life in her own style.

Judy LaMarsh

This postage stamp issued in 1997 commemorates Judy LaMarsh’s public service. Via The Canadian Museum of History.

In December 1979, Judy was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. She was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada at her hospital bed in July 1980. She died on October 27, 1980, aged 55. At her funeral, she had six female pallbearers, including Edith Druggan and Florence Rosberg of Niagra Falls, broadcaster Barbara Frum, B.C. Judge Nancy Morrison, lawyer Pamela Verill Walker, and Doris Anderson, president of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. (Wikipedia).

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