Kay Livingstone has joined a distinguished group of Black women to be designated national historic persons.
The women’s rights advocate, who died suddenly while returning from Mexico in 1975 at age 57, was honoured with the designation that recognizes the fundamental contributions of women throughout Canada’s history.
Livingstone was among 16 new historic sites, persons and events of national significance announced on International Women’s Day which was celebrated around the world on March 8.
“The contribution of women to the Canadian identity cannot be overstated,” said Environment and Parks Canada minister, Peter Kent. “National historic designations like these connect us to the forces that made Canada. By understanding and appreciating our shared history and a sense of common purpose, we become a stronger Canada.”
Status of Women minister, Rona Ambrose, said women play important roles in their families and communities and are key to our country’s prosperity.
“We can take great pride in their individual and collective achievements which have contributed positively to Canadian life,” she said.
Born in London, Ontario, to parents who published the province’s first Black newspaper, The Dawn of Tomorrow, which served the Black community for several years, Livingstone studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and at Ottawa’s College of Music and was employed with the Dominion Bureau of Statistics in Ottawa during World War II.
Her interest in the performing arts led to a position as host of a community radio program featuring music and poetry, and later as the host of CBC Radio’s The Kay Livingstone Show, exploring the traditions and cultural activities of Blacks around the world and promoting an understanding of the contributions of Blacks to Canadian society.
She was the founding president of the Canadian Negro Women’s Association (CANEWA) which morphed into the Congress of Black Women Canada; the president of the United Nations Association in Canada women’s bureau; regional chair of the National Black Coalition; chair of the YWCA International Affairs Local Council and the Canadian Council of Churches and a member of Heritage Ontario, the Appeal Board of Legal Aid and the Women’s Advertising Club.
CANEWA members, including Millicent Burgess, who was honoured last January at the Ontario Black History Society’s Black History Month launch, were amazed at how Livingstone – a mother of five – successfully juggled her family and community activities.
“She was one person who was here, there and everywhere,” Burgess once recalled. “She was a member of – you name it – she was a member. She was into everything and not in name only. She was a very forceful and active person who wanted women to succeed and be in front of everything, particularly Black women. That was her thing.”
A talented horseback rider, Livingstone was engaged as a federal consultant to the Privy Council on visible minority women at the time of her death.
Other Black women previously designated persons of national significance are Marie Marguerite Rose, who ran a small tavern in Nova Scotia after obtaining her freedom from slavery; Portia White, who is considered one of Canada’s greatest vocalists; Mary Bibb who, along with her husband, Henry, was an influential figure in the abolition movement; Lucie Blackburn who, together with her husband, Thornton, owned the city’s first cab company; Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who was the first woman newspaper publisher in North America and the second Black American woman to graduate from law school in 1883; and Underground Railroad heroine, Harriet Tubman, who helped slaves fleeing captivity in the U.S. find safety in Canada.
By RON FANFAIR