Was Lotta a feminist? Was she THE international development pioneer?

“Canada has a long-standing commitment to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in the developing world, particularly women and girls.” Justin Trudeau, Feb 4, 2018.

As we celebrate International Development Week (Feb 4 to 10, 2018), let’s give a thought to one of our pioneering women leaders, Lotta Hitschmanova, and the impact she had on her adopted country, Canada, through her humanitarian work during the 1940s to 1980s.

Quite remarkably, as a refugee, she became perhaps the most prominent Canadian woman of her generation. But more than that, she pushed hard for women’s development around the world, well before this became a key approach followed by international development agencies.

“Development often starts with a woman. Support leadership programs for women through the USC, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa.” Lotta Hitschmanova, 1978.

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Globe and Mail letter to the editor: “A force for humanity”

This wonderful testimonial about Lotta Hitschmanova was published today in the Letters section of the Globe and Mail:

Re One Man’s Continuing Quest To Honour A Humanitarian (Jan. 23): The attempts to honour Lotta Hitschmanova on a commemorative postage stamp brought back memories of how she made the Unitarian Service Committee famous in Canada in the years after the Second World War, when so many were trying to survive in brutal circumstances.

I was a high school principal and invited her to address the student body in the late 1970s on one of her cross-country fundraising tours. She was a diminutive figure in her unique uniform and I heard some of the “cool” students snicker as she headed to the stage. She soon had them eating out of her hand, and the student council voted to donate the whole proceeds of the next school dance to the USC. Dr. Lotta was a force for humanity and deserves to be commemorated.

Kerry Johnston, Toronto

Globe and Mail article: “In honour of Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova”

Photo credit: Dave Chan/Globe and Mail

Sincere thanks to Tu Thanh Ha for his excellent article in the Globe and Mail that features Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, her biographer Clyde Sanger, supporter Bruce Cockburn and myself.


He spent a decade in Tanzania, teaching, co-ordinating rural development projects and earning a master’s degree in development studies at the University of Dar es Salaam. “A lot of what Lotta said started to make sense to me,” he said.

It is nice to see the spotlight shone like this on a refugee to Canada who made such an important contribution to her adopted homeland and who connected her new society so deeply to the far corners of the globe.

My hope is that this article will stimulate many others to further explore this fascinating part of Canadian social history.

And of course, launching a campaign to have Lotta’s iconic image on a Canadian postage stamp is now front and centre for 2018!

David Rain

How to save Sparks Street – Part II – Let’s hear Lotta’s voice again!

The City of Ottawa wants your views on how to revitalize Sparks Street, Canada’s first pedestrian mall.

I’d like to add something new to what I wrote in a previous blog post, where I suggested building upon the only pre-existing “anchor” that already draws people from coast to coast to this narrow dark pedestrian mall – that anchor being Canada’s most iconic address, 56 Sparks Street, made famous by celebrated humanitarian, Lotta Hitschmanova, founder of the Unitarian Service Committee, USC Canada.

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Lotta and her unique uniform bring 2017 to a close

There are many ways we can celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Toronto author and illustrator Evan Munday has toasted the end of 2017 in a most unique way – by posting an original colour sketch of celebrated humanitarian, Lotta Hitschmanova, in her distinctive green uniform.

Munday saved Lotta for his final drawing of the year in this remarkable #365Canadians project. Bravo!

David Rain



Video: The Life and Times of Lotta Hitschmanova

On October 23, 2016, a panel discussion on the life of humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova was organized by Rev. John Marsh of the Canadian Unitarian and Universalist Historical Society and was filmed by USC Canada at their office at 56 Sparks Street in Ottawa.

Panelists included former USC Canada Board chair Clyde Sanger, also Lotta’s biographer; David Rain, former USC Canada employee, now editor of this Lotta56sparks.ca blog; Joy Thierry Llewellyn, author of “Lotta Hitschmanova: Canada’s ‘Mother Teresa’ with Attitude“, and Kate Green, USC Canada’s program manager for Asia.

Remembering a Soldier of Peace: Dr Lotta Hitschmanova

A wonderful new book has just been published: 150 Canadian Stories of Peace.

I am honoured that my story about Lotta Hitschmanova – “Remembering a Soldier of Peace“- has been included in this anthology, which was compiled by Gordon Breedyk, Mony Dojeiji, Koozma J. Tarasoff and Evelyn Voigt.

Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990) was a World War II refugee who made a lasting impact on her adopted country and acted as a Canadian ambassador for peace around the world.

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Let’s keep history alive – share your memories of Lotta Hitschmanova!

Exciting news for Lotta Hitschmanova fans across the country.

The humanitarian agency that she founded in 1945, the Unitarian Service Committee (USC Canada), has just announced a very special project at its headquarters, still located at the famous 56 Sparks Street address in Ottawa: Continue reading

Video: Sheryl-Elaine Brazeau tells Lotta’s story

Sheryl-Elaine’s Lotta story has been told in many settings. Her hope is that “it continues to inspire bold, passionate women everywhere.”

In the early 1970s, Sheryl-Elaine Brazeau held one of the most unique positions in all of Canadian society: she was Lotta Hitschmanova’s personal secretary at the office of USC Canada at one of Canada’s most celebrated addresses, 56 Sparks Street in Ottawa.

Four decades later, Sheryl-Elaine had developed her skills to become one of Ottawa’s gifted storytellers. One day, she decided to apply those skills in a unique way – to honour Dr Lotta by crafting an extended story with the title, “The Early Life of Lotta Hitschmanova.” Continue reading