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

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“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”

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

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

Video: The Life and Times of Lotta Hitschmanova

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

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

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

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!

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

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

Before there was “Giving Tuesday”, there was Lotta Hitschmanova!

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that Lotta was the greatest fundraiser that our country has ever known. Indeed, she wrote the book on fundraising long before there were professional fundraisers, or any fundraising books at all.

Today is November 28th, “Giving Tuesday”, and thousands of Canadians will be responding to fundraising appeals from charities and non-profits across the country.

Coincidentally it is also the 108th anniversary of the birth of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990), a WWII refugee to Canada who profoundly shaped the society she encountered in her adopted homeland, and indeed, she planted the very seeds for the “Giving Tuesday” that we are celebrating today. Continue reading

The Clifford quilters – a unique patch of Canadian social history

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Members of the Carry on Club at Gramma Jo’s restaurant in Clifford. Front: From left, Esther Hallman and Jean Field. Back: Marion Derbecker, Ruth Anne Cummings, Lynne Nancekivell and Phyllis Kaufman. Photo by Bonnie Whitehead

I came across a remarkable news item recently, in the Wellington Advertiser, a community paper in southwestern Ontario. Continue reading

Video: Friederike Knabe remembering Lotta

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

“A lot of the volunteers I met had met Lotta for the first time in primary school. For their life, they never forgot it. They never forgot Lotta coming to their class, almost to the date when it happened, in ’58 or ’62, whenever it was. It was such an impression on them, that they became volunteers at an early age.”

In 2009, more than 50 events were held coast to coast to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-2009). In Ottawa, USC Canada organized a special “Lotta 100” event to honour their founder. Sherry Tompalski and Graham Thompson were on hand and recorded interviews of participants who shared their recollections and stories about Lotta.

Here is the first in this series, an interview with Friederike Knabe.

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The Bruce Cockburn – Lotta Hitschmanova connection: “She radiated love and concern”

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

Bruce CockburnIn 1995, award-winning singer-songwriter, activist and humanitarian, Bruce Cockburn recalled how he first came to know and admire Dr Lotta in Ottawa: Continue reading

National Volunteer Week: a toast to Lotta and her pioneering volunteers

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week in Canada, let’s take a moment to remember some of our volunteer “pioneers”, like Lotta Hitschmanova.

Can there be another national figure who inspired so many Canadians to volunteer across the country in the 1940s to 1970s?

My own grandmother, Mary Rain in Winnipeg, was one of these.

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