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

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

“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 article: “In honour of Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova”

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

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!

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

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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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.

Video: Sheryl-Elaine Brazeau tells Lotta’s story

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

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

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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Like Lotta, these Jewish refugees made a lasting impact on Canadian society

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

In a recent Ottawa Chamberfest lecture at the National Gallery of Canada, noted CBC radio host Robert Harris traced the lines of a remarkable story: how five Jewish World War II refugees each ended up playing key roles in the development of music in Canada.

In many ways, their story echoes the story of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova, also a Jewish refugee who left a lasting impact on the social and humanitarian landscape of her adopted country.

The five musical icons were Helmut Kallmann, Helmut Blume, Franz Kraemer, John Newmark and Walter Homburger. Continue reading

Celebrating a Canadian “pioneer” on International Women’s Day

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

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

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s give a thought to one of our pioneering women leaders, Lotta Hitschmanova, and the impact she had on her adopted country, Canada.

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.

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Little known Lotta facts for a Friday: Did you know? Lotta loved to laugh!

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

The public image that Dr Lotta Hitschmanova projected to millions of Canadians – through her famous TV and radio ads in the 60s and 70s – was that of a sincere, compassionate, caring, very serious human being.

As I have suggested elsewhere, she was our conscience, our national priest, rabbi and imam, all rolled into one. And yet.

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