York alumna Heather Mains killed in a kayaking accident

Academic and advocate Heather Lee Mains has died. Ms. Mains (BFA ’81, MA ’03), the founder of the social marketing company Duegood and for several years an active member of the York-based Association for Reseach on Mothering, was killed in a kayaking accident on the Tay River in Perth, Ont., on Sept. 1, at age 50.

Right: Heather Mains

A 1981 graduate of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Ms. Mains returned to the University in 1999 to pursue a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. In addition to her formal studies, Ms. Mains was also a student of life and pursued accreditation as a doula (childbirth labour support worker), public speaker and educator. As an advocate, Ms. Mains was a champion of women’s health and well-being. Through the social marketing firm she founded with her life partner John, Ms. Mains sought to transform social cause into social action.

In addition to her partner John, Ms. Mains leaves her children Curtis and Mia, along with many friends, family and colleagues. One of those colleagues is York women’s studies Professor Andrea O’Reilly, director of The Association for Research on Mothering at York University. O’Reilly knew Mains as both a student and colleague.

“Heather was an active and involved member of The Association for Research on Mothering in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She was a leading member of the organizing committee for ARM’s very successful conference titled, “Body and Soul: Reintegrating the Spiritual, Emotional, Physical and Psychological Dimensions of Birth”, which took place on Nov. 16, 2001,” said O’Reilly. “She presented her research on childbirth at many ARM conferences; as well, she worked as ARM’s research assistant for several years."

O’Reilly describes Mains’ master’s thesis “Childbirth as Ritual” as being revolutionary and pioneering in its creation of a mother-centred empowering approach to childbirth. “As her supervisor for her master’s thesis, her colleague and friend, I witnessed firsthand Heather’s fierce determination and her deep loyalty to mothers and children,” said O’Reilly. “In her tireless advocacy, Heather, as an educator, doula and activist, was an inspiration to us all. She will be missed.”

A memorial of remembrance will be held for Ms. Mains on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 11am. Friends and colleagues are invited to join her family at the Metropolitan Community Church, 115 Simpson Ave., near Gerrard and Broadview in Toronto. There will be a luncheon reception at the church. It will take place immediately following the service.

In lieu of flowers and in keeping with Ms. Mains’ wishes, donations in her memory should be made to your local hospice or to The Association for Research on Mothering.