Forming Her Activism


Character and influences

Poverty has always been an issue for Edith, who grew up in a family where economic struggle was the norm. Her grandparents on both sides had emigrated from Eastern Europe to Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the late 1800s and turn of the 20th Century in order to escape severe poverty. In the rural community where Edith grew up many others had families who had shared in such a history.

People around us, the kids that I went to school with, we were all poor. None of us had any money and it was always scrimp and scratch. Yet many of our families were happy families. It was just a way of life that I grew up with.

Even though she attained what was considered to be the very best education at the time, graduation from Grade 12, Edith moved to the city of Winnipeg as a young adult and found it very hard to make ends meet: "Women weren't paid adequate wages in most jobs".

Taking the side of the underdog

Anchored in a concern for social justice, Edith defines the term as relating to "one's place in society and whether or not, as individuals and groups, we are given equal rights and equal opportunities". Inspired by her mother, Edith grew up "always feeling that we didn't have the right to poke fun at or in any way abuse those people who just happened, for whatever reasons, to be the underdog in a particular situation".

While teaching two years in Native communities in Northern Manitoba in the mid-1960s, Edith encountered an extreme kind of poverty for which its victims could not be blamed; it "wasn't their fault". This experience motivated her to study Social Welfare Services in a Community College in Brandon, after which she worked for Children's Aid in the core of Winnipeg for several years where the impacts of deep poverty were evident.