In the late 1960s, Nancy worked as a business education teacher in the Cabot Institute of the Newfoundland and Labrador Community College system, where she first took note of the inequities pertaining to women students and instructors. This led to her becoming a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE). After serving in a number of elected positions, Nancy went on staff in 1981 as Director of Education, Research, and Communications. In 1984, she was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the National Union of Public and Private Employees (NUPGE), which required a move to Ottawa. Two busy years later, she was elected to the position of Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress, a position she held until 1999 when elected to the higher status position of Secretary-Treasurer. She retired in 2002.
n her years with the Canadian Labour Congress, Nancy stressed that her focus was on better rights for all workers, women and men alike. Such initiatives included campaigning for quality, publically funded childcare and leave for new mothers and fathers; and processes for addressing racism and discrimination in the workplace.
Branching out into international advocacy for women workers, Nancy began to support higher-level representation of women in trade union leadership. She became Vice President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) based in Brussels, and chaired its Women's Committee from 1996 to 2002, representing over 62 million women worldwide at such top-level venues as the United Nations.
Back in St. John's for retirement, Nancy's life is filled with informal teaching and volunteer activities that are organized around the same goals of justice and inclusion for women in the leadership of organizations.
Nancy's awards include:
- Woman of Course Award, National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC);
- Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Memorial University, 1995;
- George Meaney-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award, American Federation of Labor, Congress of Industrial Organizations, 2002;
- Governor-General's Award in Commemoration of the Person's Case, 2002;
- Officer of the Order of Canada, 2003;
- Vagina Warrior Award, Memorial University, awarded on the occasion of the December 6th vigil in memory of the 14 women killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989.