Kanada: Muriel Helena Duckworth

I just could not look at myself in the mirror if I didn't renounce violence and devote myself to peace, love, justice, and nurturing.

— Muriel Helena Duckworth

Muriel Helena Duckworth is an extraordinary activist whose work for peace, social reform, and educational development has spanned almost 90 years. One of Canada's most distinguished feminists and pacifists, she was a founding member of the Voice of Women (Nova Scotia) and served as national president from 1967 to 1971. She has founded many Canada-wide and province-wide organizations, has worked at the United Nations and has gone on a number of international peace missions.

Muriel admits that much of the inspiration for her own independent thinking and take-action personality came from her unconventional, progressive mother. During a time when women were expected to be silent and subservient, Muriel's mother was neither. "I remember a lot of arguments in the family because my mother had her point of view and it was always taken for granted that she would have," Muriel recalled. "I suppose I've become like that." Unwilling to be dependent on others, her mother always earned money by turning the farmhouse into a summer boarding house. "Then she opened what she called a tearoom-it was a really attractive little place and we all worked there in the summers." Although academic achievement was important to Muriel's parents, neither of them had much education. The town in which she grew up did not have a library. "We didn't have many books but for the ones we had, my mother took the china out of the china cabinet and put the books in there and made a little book plate and had a little library." Her mother communicated her opinions through letters to the editor of the local paper, much to the chagrin of the community. "That really got her into trouble!" Muriel said. Probably most significant was her mother's active involvement with the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). At the time, Muriel was greatly amused by her mother's participation in what seemed like a conservative organization. "After I became involved in the women's movement they began giving credit to the WCTU for what they had done," Muriel said. "It changed my thinking and I felt very stupid that I hadn't seen it before. The WCTU was among the groups that had worked for votes for women, and temperance was an important social issue. Women were very angry about how women and children were suffering while men were getting drunk."

Canadian Council for International Cooperation Voice for Women Canada Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women