Social activist and journalist June Callwood

Canadian activist and journalist June Callwood, 82, died in Toronto on April 14 of cancer. A journalist and author, Callwood was also well-known as a social activist and feminist. She was an early champion for people living with HIV/AIDS. In recognition of her social activism, Callwood received an honorary doctor of laws degree from York University in 1988.

Right: June Callwood

Born in Chatham, Ontario, in 1924 and raised primarily in the village of Belle River, Callwood was the elder of two daughters. A bright student who was editor of her school newspaper, the Brantford Collegiate Grumbler, she had not seriously considered a career in journalism. After leaving school early, her first job was at the Brantford Expositor, where she learned the basics of reporting. A move to Toronto and a reporting job at The Globe and Mail came in 1942. Marriage to fellow journalist Trent Frayne, in 1944, followed but Callwood retained her single name since the Globe did not hire married women. As their four children were born, Callwood began her prolific freelance career, writing magazine pieces, many of them for Maclean’s magazine.

Her first book, A Woman Doctor Looks at Life and Love, a ghostwriting effort, was published in 1957. A serious depression in the 1950s led her to the research that produced her first book under her own name, Love, Hate, Fear and Anger. Over the course of her career, Callwood authored 30 books.

Callwood’s journalism spilled beyond print to television when, from 1975 to 1978, she hosted the CBC program, "In Touch". More recently, she acted as interviewer on VisionTV’s "National Treasures" and compiled a number of these interviews into a book titled June Callwood’s National Treasures. Caregiving with June Callwood was a recent series of television programs the journalist co-hosted to provide assistance to the many people charged with providing care for their parents, spouse or others.

Whether in print or another medium, Callwood’s journalism career was marked by compassion and a strong concern for social justice, especially on issues affecting children and women. She regarded herself as a latecomer to feminism. Despite a busy career, she found time to found or co-found over 50 social action organizations including: Digger House, a youth hostel; Nellie’s hostel for women; Jessie’s, a centre for teenage parents; Casey House Hospice for those with AIDS; PEN Canada; the Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation and Feminists Against Censorship.

Her extensive volunteer work was recognized by many honours including the Order of Canada, which she received in 1986. On March 7 at the Jane Mallett Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto, Callwood was presented with the Writers’ Trust Award for Distinguished Contribution. (See the March 29 issue of YFile.)