Halifax feminist Brigitte Neumann has fought tirelessly for equal rights

Brigitte Neumann.Courtesy of NSACSW

Passionate about creating an egalitarian and inclusive society, Brigitte Neumann has spent decades fighting to improve working conditions, security and political opportunities for women.

“The women of Nova Scotia owe her a debt of gratitude,” said Kelly Regan, Liberal MP for Bedford Basin. “So many women have benefited from his work.”

Ms Neumann, who died at the age of 75 on November 4 in the Halifax Infirmary from a stroke, served as Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women from 1996 to 2009. For eight years ago. She was the director of the Provincial Women’s Directorate, which was responsible for developing legislation and government programs relating to women.

Known as a straightforward, down-to-earth woman who worked hard and never shied away from a challenge, Ms. Neumann excelled in administration, organizing events and bringing people together to work collaboratively. She understood that her feminist work was part of a long timeline that would continue long after she stepped out of the public arena.

“We lean on the shoulders of our mothers and grandmothers … We lean on their shoulders, and our daughters and granddaughters too on our own,” Ms Neumann said in a 2017 video celebrating the 40th anniversary. the Advisory Council, which is mandated to bring women’s issues to the attention of the provincial government.

Born in the town of Neuoetting in Bavaria, Germany, on June 7, 1946, Brigitte was the eldest of three children of Hans and Emma Neumann. Enlisted in World War II, his father served as a medic in the Air Force. Life was difficult in post-war Germany; thus, in 1955, the Neumanns immigrated to Canada. After arriving in Halifax by boat, they traveled to Orillia, Ontario, and later to Midland, where Brigitte spent her school years. Being German in a small town was not easy. Neighbors thought they were Nazi supporters and did not immediately welcome them into the community. Emma, ​​who had trained as a banker, had difficulty finding work and often described her loneliness during her early years in Canada. Hans found work as a painter, working for a lighting company.

“Upon immigrating to Canada, she saw the hardships her mother went through and [those of] other women, ”said his niece, Anita Balsewicz.

Mrs. Neumann with Marcie Shwery-Stanley. Ms. Neumann was Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women from 1996 to 2009.Courtesy of the family

After high school, Ms. Neumann moved to Toronto, where she studied sociology at the University of Toronto and then completed her Masters at York University. She worked for some time as a sociologist conducting research on a range of issues involving immigration, health services and community planning.

In the mid to late 1980s, after a divorce, Ms. Neumann moved to Halifax with her son. She fell in love with the landscape and believed that she could make a difference in the province through her work.

During her time with the Advisory Council, she worked tirelessly to secure fair wages and pensions, reduce the high rates of violence against women in the province, help victims of sexual assault and promote the health and well-being of women.

She was also part of the collaborative research project A Healthy Balance: A Community Alliance for Health Research on Women’s Unpaid Caregiving, which brought together more than 25 researchers to examine how women’s work affects health.

As a divorced single mother, she deeply understood the challenges of raising children while working full time. In 2006, she was instrumental in bringing more than 100 people together for a forum to discuss caregiving and develop new strategies and policies.

“Once she set a goal, she very easily – with a lot of work and with a team – achieved it,” said Marcie Shwery-Stanley, a friend and advocate for people. with disabilities based in Sydney, Nova Scotia. “He wasn’t a person who wanted to talk about something and not do it.

Ms Neumann was instrumental in creating a campaign school to encourage women to run for office and to remove barriers faced by women in leadership roles in politics. She believed that more women needed to enter the political arena to achieve true gender equality. Nearly 20 years ago, Nova Scotia still had a long way to go. In 2003, she denounced her distinction as the province with the fewest female politicians in the country, with only four of its 52 legislative seats held by women.

“We’re at the bottom of the barrel on this one,” she told the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

Long after her retirement, she continued to encourage women to run for office, attended campaign colleges, and offered advice. It also served as President of the Nova Scotia Women’s Liberal Commission.

“She was just steadfast in her support for women in politics,” Ms. Regan said. “She was just one of those people you could count on.”

In 2009, Ms. Neumann helped establish a scholarship at Nova Scotia Community College, which she said would be another catalyst in helping women thrive. He has helped over 100 women entering science, trades and technology to complete their education.

At the housing co-op where she lived in Halifax, Ms. Neumann often retired to her reading chair. Nearby, she had a stack of books on politics and women’s history. A practicing Buddhist, she also liked to meditate.

“She was an inspiration,” Ms. Balsewicz said. “She reminded me that there is no limit for women.”

Mrs. Neumann leaves behind her son, Adrian; brothers, Hans Albert and Christian; niece, Anita; and nephew, David.

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