Dr. June Menzies, C.M., O.M.

(1925-2020)

An economist and tireless advocate for feminist and social justice issues, June Menzies helped revolutionize and reform family law across Canada. Menzies’ feminist development took shape as a young child when she began noticing that men were inherently handed a higher social standing. This continued into her early adult years, when she experienced firsthand gender discrimination on many fronts while serving with the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in 1943.

Born in Arcola, Sask., in 1925, Menzies enlisted in the Armed Forces immediately after high school, against her father’s wishes. She went to Japanese language school in Vancouver, and worked as an intelligence officer in Fort Richie, Maryland. After the war, she met her husband Merrill Menzies at university, where he was also studying economics.

After moving to Winnipeg in 1962, Menzies quickly became a key member of Manitoba’s feminist movement. She was central to the development of the original Manitoba Action Committee on the Status of Women, drafted the structure of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and served as the first vice-president for the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Menzies also chaired and served as CEO for the Farm Products Marketing Council. She was the vice-chair of the Anti-Inflation Board from 1976 to 1979, and spent seven years in the private sector as director and economist with the M.W. Menzies Group Ltd. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981, received an honourary doctor of laws degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1983, and was invested into the Order of Manitoba in 2007.

Menzies was co-chair of the Task Force on Urban Safety for Women and Children in Winnipeg. She was intelligent, spoke her mind, and a humble but leading light for equality in the women’s community. She was also actively involved in the United Church.

Ahead of her time, she worked as a volunteer with Kali Shiva, providing home care for people with AIDS when health care professionals were unsure of the transmission and there was much fear. Menzies would pick up laundry, and do it at her home for the clients. She was known by the volunteers as the “laundry lady” and never mentioned the fact that she was a well-regarded national figure who received the Governor General’s award.

Menzies died in 2020.

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