A scholar and an activist, York Professor Emerita Shelagh Wilkinson (BA ’68, Hon. LLD ’09) has died following a battle with cancer. She died peacefully at home on Nov. 16.
Right: Shelagh Wilkinson
Professor Wilkinson was the first editor and a tireless supporter of Canadian Woman Studies, a journal that raised the profile of women's issues in an inclusive way, incorporating research other than scholarly or government studies as well as poetry and life-writing.
A professor of English literature at York University, Wilkinson was the founding director of York’s Centre for Feminist Research and was instrumental in the creation of the Women's Studies Bridging Program at York, which has brought many women across the divide between their lives in the community and the world of academia, an example of her academic outreach and quest for social justice.
In 2009, during Fall Convocation ceremonies, York University honoured her many accomplishments with an honorary doctor of laws degree. As part of her convocation address, she told graduands that the most vital question for her was: How is it possible to create a more equitable world in the future?
“It’s an overwhelming problem, I know, and one blanches in front of it,” she said. “Each one of us, whether we’re in a classroom as a teacher or in an office or a hospital, a lawyer, a counsellor, wherever it is that we find ourselves – is each one of us willing to challenge injustice and not back off? I know you are starting your professional lives in troubling and difficult times, but it is all the more reason, I believe, each one of us must be a catalyst for change.”
In 1992, Prof. Wilkinson was awarded a Governor General of Canada Persons Award. Recipients of the Persons Award continue the tradition of courage, integrity and hard work which the Famous Five of the Persons Case inspired. Their effectiveness and courage has advanced the cause of equality for girls and women in significant and substantial ways that have enriched their communities.
Prof. Wilkinson was in her 84th year. She leaves her husband David, daughters Jane and Lesley and granddaughters Emilie, Caroline, Fabienne and Gabrielle and was predeceased by son David.
A funeral service for Prof. Wilkinson will be held at the Church of the Redeemer, located at 162 Bloor St. W. at Avenue Rd., on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 12:30pm. Colleagues, former students and friends are invited to the service and a reception to follow at the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the David Gardner Wilkinson Bursary at York University would be appreciated.