Kay Macpherson

August 20, 1999

Peace activist Macpherson dead at 86

TORONTO (CP) -- In the mid-1960s when many Canadian women were at home making tuna casseroles and waxing the kitchen floor, Kay Macpherson was languishing in a French jail.   She, along with a dozen other peace demonstrators, had tried to present a statement to the secretary general of NATO during a 1964 conference in Paris.   They were protesting a proposal for a multilateral force that would allow any NATO naval commander to press the nuclear button whenever he deemed necessary. For their trouble, they were locked up.   Macpherson, the politician, feminist and founder of the peace group The Voice of Women, died of lymphatic cancer Thursday in Toronto at 86.   When the slim, indomitable white-haired activist received her Order of Canada from Gov. Gen Ed Schreyer in 1982, he asked her, "and what
have you been up to lately?"  "Revolution," she replied. And she wasn't joking.

Macpherson served humanitarian causes and social concerns, particularly women's rights, most of her life.  She also helped establish Women for Political Action, and in 1977 was elected president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women.

Born in England in 1913, she trained as a physiotherapist before immigrating to Canada in 1935.  After working in Montreal and then Fredericton, N.B., she married political philosopher Brough Macpherson in 1944.   She ran for federal office under the Feminist Party banner, and in 1973 she joined the NDP and tried three times -- all unsuccessfully -- to get a seat in the House of Commons.

 Macpherson told The Canadian Press in 1994 that she had the ordinary feelings of not liking force and violence. "I don't believe you solve problems by bopping people over the head," she said.

June Callwood, a friend and colleague who joined Macpherson in many of the anti-war and feminist demonstrations, called her" an extraordinary figure.  "I have a feeling of loss that goes beyond remembering that bubbling and sardonic personality," the author-broadcaster and social activist said Friday. "It's as if something that you depend on in order to find your way is gone."