Grace Hartman was born in 1918 to a Southern Ontario Tory family. Her own mother died when she was a girl, and it was probably her mother-in-law who influenced her commitment to labor most strongly.
Grace started to work as a secretary for North Yorkin 1954. She already had a sense of what unions could do for people, and was ready to help run her local. She became an office less than one year after joining the union. From then on, she was on a straight course: by 1975 she was President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. CUPE is the largest Canadian union, with 300,000 members in 2000 locals. Grace's commitment went much farther than the call of duty; she was sent to jail for a month for refusing to order hospital workers in Ontario back to work.
She analyzed the different styles of organization in the labor and peace movement, pointing to ways to bring the two closer together.
Upon retirement from CUPE in 1983, Grace turned her energies and talents to the work of Voice of Women. A long time member, she was Voice of Women President from 1988 until the time she died. Voice of Women is a national women's peace organization working on issues relating to peace, social justice, development, and the environment.
Grace was committed to the global struggle of women for peace and equality. For example, she helped with the Toronto visit of Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire in 1992 and was a founding member of Women in Global Partnership, an organization dedicated to supporting some of the poorest women in the world. Grace spoke out against the wars in the Gulf, in the former Yugoslavia, and in Somalia. She supported the resistance and reconciliation work of women from these regions.
She was aware of the many dimensions of peace, which made her valuable to Peace Magazine-- first as a director and then as an honorary patron. She recognized the need to affirm the rights of people to hold different views without fear of retaliation.
At times there was dissension within her own union, which saddened her, as did the criticism of Peace Magazine by parts of that movement. She was an excellent example of why you must hold on to your principles and keep trying to make improvements. We'll do our best to live up to her example.