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Ruth Gorman (1914-2002)

Ruth Gorman was born in Calgary, Alberta on February  14, 1914 to Colonel Mark Bennett and Fleda Pattyson Peacock.  Ruth, like her father became a lawyer, and was one of two women graduating in her law class in 1939 at the University of Alberta.

Throughout her life she volunteered her legal knowledge and worked on behalf of various Aboriginal, political and women’s groups. As the legal convenor of the Calgary branch of the Local Council of Women, she fought for public washrooms for women, public education for disabled children, the legalization of skimmed milk for poor mothers, and over saw the passing of the Dower Act, which prevented the disposition of the marital home without a wife’s consent.

In 1946 she became the unpaid legal advisor for the Indian Association of Alberta.  In that capacity until 1962 when she resigned, she fought along side John Laurie for the treaty and voting rights for the Indigenous peoples in Canada.  She also was key in the famous Hobbema case, which was precipitated by a federal government desire to depopulate the reserves.   Upon her 1957 success in that case the Maskiwacis Cree gave her the title of Queen Morning Star.  After that she successfully and dramatically worked with Howard Beebe, and Chief Johnny Samson, to have section 112 from the Indian Act repealed.  When that happened in 1960 all Aboriginal people in Canada could vote without losing their treaty rights.

She was also instrumental in a famous fight with the CPR in ensuring the preservation of Prince’s Island Park in Calgary.

Gorman was honoured with many awards throughout her life including the title of Princess Mountain White Eagle Girl for her father’s work with the Wesley Stoney Nakoda on hunting rights, Calgary’s Woman of the Year (1960), Citizen of the Year (1961), Alberta Woman of the Century (1967) and, in 1968 Officer of the Order of Canada. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary in 1966.

Gorman had an interest in publishing and became both publisher and editor of My Golden West  which ran from 1965 through to 1977. She worked with Frits Pannekoek on her Behind the Man- John Laurie, Ruth Gorman and Indian Vote in Canada (University of Calgary Press, 2007).

Until her death on December 10, 2002. Gorman worked passionately throughout her life to right injustices that she saw in our community in order to make it a better place.

References:

  1. Athabasca University, Ruth Gorman http://archives.athabascau.ca/docs/fonds/AU007RuthGormanFonds.pdf
  2. Gorman, Ruth, “Behind the Man, John Laurie, Ruth Gorman and the Indian Vote in Canada”, 2007
  3. Norris, Marjorie, “A Leaven of Ladies”, 1995