“It seems to have been an instinctive desire on her part to bring out the leadership qualities she knew were in so many talented women she met, and an intuition that their ideas on human development would match her own.”
As millions of women and men around the world march to the cry of “women’s rights are human rights” – amid calls for greater tolerance, social justice, dignity and respect – a tiny candle of remembrance lights itself in honour of our women’s rights pioneers of times passed.
Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990) was one of those early pioneers.
From the 1940s onwards, Lotta grew to become the most recognizable woman in Canada – a woman leader in a man’s world. She was a unique role model, not just for women in Canada, but around the world.
As Lotta’s biographer, Clyde Sanger has noted, long before other international development agencies became concerned with the improvement of the position of women, Lotta was a champion for women’s development and women’s rights.
“I doubt that Dr. Lotta would ever have described herself as a feminist at any stage of her life….
“But it is intriguing that the staff she worked with in Ottawa for 25 years were all female, that most of the USC representatives she chose in Asia were women … and that a surprisingly high number of project leaders were also women.
“As well, the USC branches and working groups across Canada were mostly women, while men cheerfully headed for the background and basement where the packing cases were. It is not that men found it difficult to work with such a strong-willed ascetic woman….
“Rather, it seems to have been an instinctive desire on her part to bring out the leadership qualities she knew were in so many talented women she met, and an intuition that their ideas on human development would match her own.”
Would Lotta have marched?
I believe the simple answer to that question is that Lotta was indeed marching, every waking second, of every exhausting day of her working life. Her life was one long march. She walked the walk.
And we should all of us, women and men, be thankful for Lotta’s long march into our consciousness – planting the seeds of compassion, tolerance, respect, dignity and social justice in our Canadian society.