Ellen Woodsworth is a community organizer and former Vancouver City Councillor, working for social justice, inclusiveness, economic equality and environmentally sound planning. She served as a Vancouver City Councillor from 2002 to 2005 and from 2008 to 2011.
Ellen is a feminist and her work to get women’s voices and experiences in municipal public policy builds on a lifetime of community activism. In the late 1970s she was part of the Ottawa Abortion Caravan for women’s right to choose. She also co-created and ran CORA the Women’s Liberation Bookmobile which travelled all over Ontario and Quebec. She Chaired the Bridge Housing Society for Women which built the building to house the Down Town East Side Women’s Centre and housing for women. A life of working towards inclusiveness.
She was the first out lesbian city councillor in Canada. This leading by example is important for lesbians in Canada.
During her first term Ellen co- chaired the Women’s Task Force which wrote the Gender Equality Strategy for the City of Vancouver. While on City Council Ellen started the process to get that Equality Strategy implemented. As part of that process she changed public policy at the City Of Vancouver to establish two advisory committees one called the LGTTBQ (lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual, bisexual and queer) advisory committee and the second the Women’s Advisory Committee.
She was the co founder, editor and writer of (the lesbian feminist) The Other Woman Newspaper in Toronto. In 2011 Ellen was a founding board member of the lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgendered Generations project. Some of the people in this project applied for and were accepted to service on the City of Vancouver’s LGTTBQ Advisory Committee. Through Ellen’s work these community activists now worked with the City Council to make our city a better place. Her influence grows exponentially.
The Women’s Advisory Committee was the first in Canada at the municipal level and to our knowledge is still the only one. This committee has representation from both the City’s Park Boards and the City’s school boards and resulted in policy change at the municipal level.
Ellen also works toward policy change around women and sports. You may remember Ellen’s work to try and get women ski jumpers included in the Olympics that our city hosted in 2010! In 2013 the Parks Board is reviewing of the use of all their facilities to see how boys and girls, men and women are accessing these publically funded facilities. Policy change requires data so the first step is to document the use of public facilities. The review is under way now.
Ellen has worked on women and cities in many places over many years. At the World Urban Forum in Barcelona, Ellen launched the project “Cities Tailored to Women” on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and she launched the “Safe Cities for Women” on behalf of Femmes et Villes/Women and Cities International. She continued this work and in 2011 was the Canadian Municipal speaker and representative “Cities Tailored to Women” Conference, Turkey, 2011.
Ellen was the Founder of Women Transforming Cities: Designing an Ideal City for Women and Girls, a concept she brought to the Women’s Advisory Committee and which eventually was created into the registered Society it is today. She is now the External Chairperson. Women Transforming Cities uses multi-lingual structured dialogue to generate models for change for cities across Canada, based on women’s very specific needs they voice themselves, and United Nations principles. In fall 2012, the project launched a series of World Café-style neighbourhood dialogue events, brainstorming on themes like Safe Infrastructure, Affordable Housing, Intersectionality, Each Café includes one tables using a third language common in that neighbourhood, e.g., Tagalog Spanish, Chinese, Farsi, Russian. The use of many languages at these cafes is one way this project is using an equality lens.
Ellen’s successful fight to get the City of Vancouver to join the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination was another example of her work to get an equality lens put on City policies.
Women still do most of the unpaid work in our homes. As recently as June 2013 the Globe and Mail ran a week-long series on which work men and women do in the home. Ellen was a leader in the “When Women Count” Committee to get women’s unpaid work in the Canadian Census making Canada the first country in the world to do so.
Ellen also was the co founder and Secretary of the World Peace Forum.
Ellen is inexhaustibly, remarkable.