Pioneering Canadian journalist Doris Anderson

Doris Anderson, a ground-breaking Canadian journalist and editor, has died.

Anderson died Friday night at 85 following a battle with pulmonary fibrosis. A former Chatelaine magazine editor, Anderson was also well-known as a feminist, author and fierce advocate for women’s rights.

Right: Doris Anderson

On Nov. 9, 1997, York University recognized Anderson’s many accomplishments with an honorary degree. In 2001, an Ontario Graduate Studies endowment fund was established in concert with her 80th birthday. The fund awards one scholarship each year to a student at York University. Anderson had also served on the Board of Governors of York University. 

Born in 1921, Anderson grew up in Calgary. Following her graduation from the University of Alberta in 1945, she headed to Toronto to work in radio. Instead, she held a number of positions that she described as "extremely dull" before landing a sales and promotion position at Chatelaine. In 1957, she took over as editor of the magazine vowing to turn it into a publication that would give readers "something serious to think about, something to shake them up."

During her 20-year career as the publication’s editor, Anderson focused on many feminist issues. The magazine sought out and presented a myriad of stories on controversial subjects including family violence, child abuse, divorce law, pay equity and the problems faced by working mothers. Some readers objected to the editorial direction, but circulation, which was 480,000 when Anderson became editor, increased to 1.8 million by the late 1960s. The content of Chatelaine, during that period, placed it in the vanguard of second-wave feminism in North America.

Anderson left the magazine in 1977 to run in a federal by-election. She was unsuccessful in her bid. In 1979, she was appointed by the Liberal government as head of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. She resigned from the position in 1981, citing government interference over her opposition to the Charter of Rights & Freedoms legislation which she felt would undermine the rights of women. Her sudden resignation sparked the formation of a grassroots alternative to the council. Known as the Ad Hoc Conference on the Status of Women, the conference successfully forced the Liberal government of the day to add a clause to the Constitution that stated men and women were equal under the law

From 1984 to 1993, she was a columnist for the Toronto Star and served as chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island from 1992 to 1996.

In 1974, she was named an officer of the Order of Canada, and promoted to companion in 2002.

Anderson also served as a director of the MacMillan Publishing Company of Canada and as director of the Canadian Film Development Corporation and the Institute of Research on Public Policy Planning. She was a member of the Ontario Press Council.

In addition to her novels, Two Women (1978) and Rough Layout (1981), Anderson published her autobiography Rebel Daughter (1996), and the books The Unfinished Revolution: Status of Women in Twelve Countries (1991) and Affairs of State (1988).

Her advice to young women: "The main thing is not to undersell yourself. Don’t settle for less than what you can achieve or less than what women should be achieving."