June Callwood

June Callwood wrote for several newspapers starting with the Brantford Expositor and then the GLOBE AND MAIL, magazines including MACLEAN'S and CHATELAINE, and wrote 30 books.
June Callwood, author
A prominent magazine writer in the 1950s, she became a social activist in the 1960s (photo by Heather Graham).

June Callwood

June Callwood, journalist, writer, broadcaster, civil libertarian (b at Chatham, Ont 2 June 1924; d at Toronto, 14 April 2007). Callwood began her career writing for newspapers and magazines in the 1950s but by the 1960s, in addition to her work as a writer, she became a dedicated and determined activist for social causes such as the homeless and drug addiction.

June Callwood wrote for several newspapers starting with the Brantford Expositor and then the GLOBE AND MAIL, magazines including MACLEAN'S and CHATELAINE, and wrote 30 books. In addition to writing under her own name she was the ghost-writer for several books, including the autobiographies of American celebrities such as Barbara Walters (How to Talk With Practically Anybody About Practically Anything, 1970), film director Otto Preminger, and Dr Charles Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic.

She was a founding member of the WRITER'S UNION OF CANADA, the Writers' Development Trust, and the Canadian chapter of PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists), an international organization dedicated to public awareness about freedom of expression and democratic rights. A staunch supporter of women's rights, Callwood was a founding member of the Canadian Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, and was the president of Maggie's, an advocacy group that assists Toronto prostitutes.

In 1964, Callwood helped establish the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The CCLA was originally formed to bring public attention to civil rights issues in Ontario but the group grew into a national organization devoted to protecting the human rights of all Canadians. She was also a council member of Amnesty International in Canada.

Callwood was a tireless social activist. In the late 1960s she helped establish Digger House, a shelter for homeless youth; in 1974 she helped found Nellie's (named after Nellie MCCLUNG), a crisis shelter for women; and in 1982 she helped create Jessie's Centre for Teenagers, a resource for pregnant and parenting teenagers. In 1988, she founded Canada's first AIDS hospice called Casey House, named after her youngest son, who died in a motorcycle accident. The hospice was established to provide palliative care for people suffering from HIV/AIDS.

As an activist and humanitarian many of her published works were about injustice, but also about compassion. Some of her books included Love, Hate, Fear, and Anger (1964), Canadian Women and the Law (1974), The Law Is Not for Women (1976), Portrait of Canada (1981), Emma: A True Story of Treason (1984), Emotions (1986), Twelve Weeks in Spring (1986), Jim: A Life with AIDS (1988), The Sleepwalker (1990), and The Man Who Lost Himself: The Terry Evanshen Story (2000). In Trial Without End: A Shocking Story of Women and AIDS (1995), Callwood told the story of Charles Ssenyonga, the first Canadian citizen charged with failing to disclose his HIV as he systematically infected 20 women.

Callwood also worked as a broadcaster. From 1975 to 1978 she hosted the CBC program In Touch and was a guest host for episodes of Close-Up, Take 30, Generation and Profile. From 1991 to 1996 she hosted National Treasures, which featured interviews with prominent Canadians. In 1994 she published June Callwood's National Treasures, based on some of these interviews. In 1998 she hosted Caregiving with June Callwood, a series that provided practical information on the challenges of aging and providing care for the ill or aging.

In the late 1940s Canada's first female bush pilot, Violet Milstead, taught Callwood how to fly. Callwood maintained her pilot's licence for her entire life and in the 1990s she also began flying gliders. Callwood received many awards including 16 honorary degrees and 4 honorary diplomas. In 1984 she was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame, and in 1990 received the Toronto Arts Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. The June Callwood Professorship in Social Justice at was created at the Victoria College at the University of Toronto in celebration of Callwood's 80th birthday. She was a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada, a research associate at Trinity College, and was awarded a Doctorate of Law from York University.

In Toronto a park was named after Callwood (2004) and a Toronto street was named June Callwood Way in her honour (2006). In 2007 she received the Writers' Trust Award. Callwood was married to sportswriter Trent Frayne.

In 1978, June Callwood was made a member of the ORDER OF CANADA. In 1985 she was promoted to Officer with the Order of Canada, in 1988, she was awarded the Order of Ontario, and in 2001 she was again promoted and became a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Further Reading

  • Anne Dublin, June Callwood: A Life of Action (2006).