Harriet Snetsinger Dick
Harriet Dick was a trailblazer in many ways. She began her life in Winnipeg as a wife and mother, first making a home on the family lumberyard in 1885. As her housing improved, she added charitable and community work to her life. Along the way she became a suffragist, businesswoman and property developer, and she moved from fundraising for charity to lobbying and making policy that improved the conditions of living in Winnipeg. Most of all, she became “the champion of the children because the future depended upon the children.” (The Free Press, 21 June, 1920.)
Dick helped to organize the Mothers’ Association, free kindergartens and she was instrumental in the Mothers’ Allowance Act of 1916. From 1908-1909 she worked on the Playgrounds Commission and later became the first “lady member” of the Parks Board. She worked for the Manitoba Patriotic Fund and Christmas Cheer for the children of soldiers. (Remember that WWI soldiers and their families didn’t get the financial support that service people do today.)
Politics would always be an interest and she was active in the Political Equality League, ran for MLA in Manitoba in 1920, was defeated, and ran federally in 1921. She ran provincially again in 1941. Defeated three times, she returned to organizing charitable dinners for the poor and for the families of service people.
In 1927, her circumstances changed. With the death of her husband she was now responsible to provide for six children and herself. She did so by doing something unusual for the times – she took some family property and became a real estate developer, building the Dick Block and the Eugenie Apartments, all in Norwood.
In addition to real estate, she was now lobbying for service people and their dependants during the Second World War. Because she was so often lobbying at City Hall, she left her car in various places for various lengths of time and expected to be exempt from tickets! After all, she was doing the “city’s business”!
Dick was honoured in 1940 by a civic luncheon and again in 1947 for her service “with dignity and grace, without thought of recompense…(and with) deep concern for the underprivileged.”
Dick continued her work until just before she died in 1957 at 90.
When you see the small parks that dot our residential areas, remember Harriet Dick. She wanted neighbourhood grassy spaces and local playgrounds for the children – not mud and garbage on the streets!