Doris Hilda Anderson
|Died||March 2, 2007 (aged 85)|
|Occupation||Author, journalist and women's rights activist|
Doris Hilda Anderson, (November 10, 1921 – March 2, 2007) was a Canadian author, journalist and women's rights activist. She is best known as the editor of the magazine Chatelaine who mixed traditional content (recipes, décor) with thorny social issues of the day (violence against women, pay equality, abortion, race, poverty), putting the magazine on the front lines of the feminist movement in Canada. Her activism beyond the magazine helped drive social and political change in the country, enshrining women's equality and making her one of the most well-known names in the women's movement in Canada.
Doris Anderson was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta as Hilda Doris Buck to Rebecca Laycock Buck and Thomas McCubbin. Mrs. Buck, whose first husband had abandoned her and her two young sons, leaving them in debt, met McCubbin when he was a guest at her mother's boarding house in Calgary. She was staying with her sisters in Medicine Hat when Anderson was born, and briefly placed her "illegitimate" child in a home for unwanted babies in Calgary before reclaiming her some months later.[note 1] Buck and McCubbin married shortly before Anderson's eighth birthday.
Anderson described her father as difficult and domineering, rebuking her forward and unladylike demeanour. Her mother wanted Anderson to be demure, keep her head down and conform to "respectable" expectations, perhaps as a result of her experiences as a single mother bearing a child out of wedlock. In any case, Anderson chafed under the expectations of her parents that she marry and raise children and chose instead to forge an independent life.
She attended Crescent Heights High School then went on to graduate from teacher's college in 1940. She used her income to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alberta in 1945.[note 2]
She married Prince Edward Island lawyer and Liberal Party organizer David Anderson in 1957. The pair had three sons: Peter (born 1958), Stephen (born 1961), and Mitchell (born 1963), before divorcing in 1972. Theirs was not a love match; she married because she wanted children.
When her employers discovered she was pregnant, they sent her to work at home; at the time, women were expected to resign their employment when their pregnancies began to show. Anderson, however, worked until her due date, and returned to work almost immediately (there was no parental leave available).
Upon receiving her degree, Anderson wrote and sold pieces of fiction, and spent time in Europe  before she returned to Canada, and secured a job writing advertising copy for Chatelaine in 1951. By 1955, she'd worked her way up to associate editor. When John Clare, the editor, stepped down, and a new male editor was appointed, Anderson threatened to quit and her publisher eventually relented and gave her the job instead.
In 1957, Anderson was the first female editor of Chatelaine, a position she held until 1977. Her early tenure at the magazine saw it transformed from a traditional women's publication into one that addressed challenging issues of the day, including legal abortion in specific circumstances (1959), an exposé on child abuse (1960), a critique of Canadian divorce laws (1961) and a call for equal pay for women (1962). The women writers she employed (June Callwood, Barbara Frum, Adrienne Clarkson, and Michele Landsberg) would go on to have successful careers as journalists.
In 1963, Anderson chose not to run an excerpt from a new novel in Chatelaine, feeling the material had already been well explored by the magazine. The book was Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique.
In 1969, she campaigned for, and did not receive, the editorship of Maclean's magazine, but lost the job to Peter Gzowski despite her significantly longer tenure with the company, and her track record of success. The job would've meant more than increased visibility in the publishing industry - it paid more than twice as much. The publisher said that she wouldn't have been able to represent the company publicly, but couldn't explain why.
Promoting the role of women in politics under her direction, Chatelaine identified 50 women who had potential as parliamentarians and put 12 of them - including Member of Parliament Flora MacDonald who referred to it in an interview at Anderson's passing - on the cover. For much of her life, she supported greater representation of women in Parliament.
She departed in 1977. In her two decades as editor, she'd tripled circulation of the magazine, and made it the most profitable of the Maclean-Hunter publications. By the late 1960s, one in every three women in Canada was reading the magazine.
In 2008, the magazine would be recognized as the second-most influential magazine in Canada - just ahead of Maclean's.
In the 1978 by-election, she ran unsuccessfully for the House of Commons of Canada as a Liberal in the Toronto riding of Eglinton as the Liberals were swept from office in a wave of anti-Trudeau sentiment.
She was then appointed chair of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (CACSW) in 1979. She worked successfully for the inclusion of women's rights in the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 28), adding a single statement to the Charter indicating that men and women are equal under law. The specific wording reads: "Notwithstanding anything in the Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed to male and female persons". It was clear, Anderson once said, "that the charter of rights could do good things for women or, if it was a bad charter, it could be a terrible problem for women for generations to come."
With CACSW, she commissioned research into issues such as prevalence and prevention of domestic abuse and other violence against women.
Her frustration with the status quo was evident in a column published in Maclean's in 1980, where she wrote of wage inequality, domestic violence, and being ignored by politicians.
Her activism continued from 1982 to 1984, when she was the president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, where she was known as a peacemaker within the movement. For almost a decade, beginning in 1984, she was also a columnist for the Toronto Star (that ended when she refused to cross a picket line when Star writers were on strike). She was named a recipient of the Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case in 1991, and served as Chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island from 1992 to 1996.
In 1994, Doris Anderson was invited to be an observer in the South African election that brought Nelson Mandela to power and ended apartheid, an opportunity her son Mitchell described as "one of the greatest thrills of his mother's life".
Anderson was named the chair of the Ontario Press Council in 1998, and in 2001, the Doris Anderson Ontario Graduate Scholarship in Women's Studies was established at York University to recognize her contributions. She was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2002, the last public award she received during her lifetime.
Anderson's final years were marked by ill health, from heart failure in 2001 to numerous other health problems that developed after her 2006 visit to Costa Rica. In February 2007 she was admitted to St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, where she died on March 2 at age 85 from pulmonary fibrosis.
Doris Anderson has been posthumously recognized for her contributions to Canadian society. In 2016, her accomplishments were recognized on a plaque by Heritage Toronto, and in 2017, she was included in the She Who Dares project recognizing women who impacted Calgary, by the Calgary YWCA, as part of Canada's sesquicentennial.
Anderson's novel Rebel Daughter was transformed into a play by students at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College in 2014, which became the subject of a radio documentary entitled Daughters and Sons.
Her impact on Canadian feminism was documented in an edition of Canadian Woman Studies in 2007, entitled Celebrating Doris Anderson.
In her 1996 autobiography, Rebel Daughter, she writes "What I wanted more than anything was to be able to look after myself and make sure that every other woman in the world could do the same."
Doris Anderson was widely recognized, and received many awards during her life:
There is a Doris H. Anderson fonds at Library and Archives Canada. The archival reference number is R12700. The material covers the date ranges 1935 to 2007. It consists of 3.88 meters of textual records and 102 photographs : 70 b&w negatives; 21 b&w prints; 5 contact sheets; 6 col. prints.