Dr. Jessie Lang, LL.D.
Born April 1, 1916, two months after Manitoba women received the right to vote, Jessie Lang defied the traditional roles and expectations for women.
A born leader and organizer, she was a dedicated, committed and inspiring, yet unassuming mentor. Influential and empowering to women, she encouraged critical thinking and independence. Lang became a role model for women early in life, achieving with a quiet determination goals that were not easily accessible for women.
In 1937, she graduated from Wesley College with a BA in mathematics. She participated on the debating team, played ice hockey, was a member of the student council and worked in the library. She was very persistent in securing her first job at an insurance company that had a policy not to hire women. Lang was offered the job anyway, albeit at a much lower salary than the men.
As a young wife and mother, Lang volunteered for the Community Chest (United Way), and UNICEF among others. Widowed in 1961, she enrolled at the University of Manitoba, obtaining a BSW. A gifted counselor for Child Guidance Clinic (Winnipeg School Division), she advised, encouraged and mentored high-school-aged girls.
In the 1970s, Lang began her major volunteer work with the U. of M., the Health Sciences Centre and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. As a member of the university’s board of governors, she became involved with, and then was appointed the first female board chair of, the Health Sciences Centre. She helped to establish daycare for its staff, assisting women to remain in the workforce. Jessie was a board member of the Health Sciences Center Foundation and an honorary director.
Lang embodied a rare blend of compassion and action. She participated in her first Multiple Sclerosis walk in 2013, at age 97. She walked with the Forever Wendy Team to honour the 20th anniversary of the death of her daughter Wendy, who suffered from MS. Lang continued to educate people about the disease and to advance the research and service commitments of the MS Society until she died in Marc, 2018, at 102.
Lang was an extraordinary role model for the inclusion of all women, challenging society’s perception of women in the workforce and society, while committed to serving everyone, regardless of gender.
She received the Distinguished Service Medal from the U. of M., an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Winnipeg, and honorary fellow of St. John’s College. She was also awarded The Nancy Perkins Award for outstanding volunteer contribution to the MS Society of Canada. She was recognized for her lifework advancing women with a Nellie McClung Foundation ‘Nellie Award’ at the 2016 Centennial Gala: Celebrating 100 Years of Manitoba Women’s Right to Vote.