Years before women were allowed to read the news on television, Grace Hartman was on television making the news.

In 1954, to help pay the mortgage on her family’s new suburban home, Grace Hartman took a job with the Township of North York. Hartman soon became active in her union, where she dedicated herself to improve the worker’s lot. Twenty-one years later Hartman was still a worker, but no longer a secretary for North York: she was president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the largest union in Canada. Hartman was the first woman to lead a major labour organization anywhere in North America.

Grace Hartman — A Woman for Her Time is the story of a labour activist who served two months in jail at the age of 62 for defying a court order and asserting her members’ right to strike. It is the story of a visionary feminist who helped found the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, who stood up to Pierre Trudeau over wage and price controls because she saw that her sisters would bear their brunt. It is the story of a lifelong and committed social activist who fought tirelessly, both inside and outside the labour movement, for women’s rights and progressive causes.


"Crean's account of Hartman's life nevertheless unfolds smoothly in a well-crafted account."

"Crean never strays from her subject, but her contextual material is so keenly observed, so thoughtfully chosen and so skillfully woven in to Hartman's story, that I found myself reading the book also as a fresh look at two strong waves of two major political forces—the women's movement and the labour movement—that swept Canada in the 1970s and 1980s."

Eve Corbel


This book began as a project of the National Women’s Task Force in the months following Grace Hartman’s retirement as president of CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) in 1983. Interviews were done with Grace in subsequent years, most especially a wide-ranging series by Wayne Roberts in 1989. I was approached to write the book that year, and in 1993, shortly before Grace died, CUPE’s national executive Board agreed to fund it and allow me access to the CUPE archives. I’d heard horror stories of writers commissioned to write union histories, and the difficulties with having to satisfy all concerned sometimes even ended with a manuscript never published. My experience was nothing like that; there was fulsome help and advice from Judy Darcy (then CUPE president) and the people in her office. A good part of the pleasure of writing the book was exploring labour history with people who had been part of the struggle and had stories to tell. It was also getting to know  Grace’s son Warren who was in theatre and teaching at Brock University at the time, and her husband Joe. Both remarkable people who talked to me at length about her life. There were two other key advisors: Gil Levine who had been director of research for many years was an admirable back up on history and politics, and Louise Leclair then in the BC Regional Office. Commissioned books like this only happen when someone is committed and bloody-minded enough to see it through. In this case that person was Louise.



Share Grace Hartman

Author: Susan Crean
Pages: 248
Subjects: Non-fiction, Canadian Biography, Canadian Historical Biography,  Grace Hartman,  Biography, Fine arts biography, Women's Biography, 20th century, Labour Movement, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Feminism, Government employee, Unions, Women labor, Union members, Labour, Union Leaders

Publisher: New Star Books

Publication Year: 1995

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