At against the tide and her class

At no time did
the Senator take a more public stand against her leader’s views than on Oct. 2,
1938, when in her capacity as the first and only president of the League of
Nations Society in Canada, she issued a statement condemning the Munich
Agreement. In doing so, she pitted herself not only against King but also
against many other influential Liberals.

  Cairine’s
contributions to improving the lives of Canadians were many. Health insurance,
infant and mother mortality, easing divorce laws, education and working
conditions, and trying to expand immigration for desperate Jewish refugees and
orphaned children from war-torn countries were the greatest issues for Senator
Wilson. She was dubbed “Mother of the Refugees” for her kindhearted if not
always successful endeavors.

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 Canada
had the worst record of all the Allies in accepting Jewish refugees. After the
war, until her death in 1962, Wilson continued to advocate for immigration
reform and the resettlement of refugees. In the 1930s, genteel anti-Semitism
among the Canadian establishment was considered by most as the norm. Wilson,
however, fought against the tide and her class to speak for those who had no
voice. 

 The firsts for Cairine Wilson only began with
the Senate seat. In 1949, she became Canada’s first female delegate to the
United Nations General Assembly, the first woman to chair the Senate Standing
Committee on Immigration and Labour, and the first woman to chair the Canadian
National Committee on Refugees. She earned the honour of being the first woman
to become Deputy Speaker of the Canadian House of Parliament in 1955.

For her tireless
efforts on behalf of Canadians and immigrants, Cairine received several awards:

·     
Honourary
Doctorate in DCL from Acadia University, 1941

·     
Honourary
Doctorate from Queen’s University, 1943

·     
Cross
of the Knight of the Legion of Honour, from France, 1950

·     
Named
“Mother of the Year” by the American Mothers Committee of New York

·     
B’nai B’rith Woman of the Year, 1960

The Honourable Cairine Wilson
died on March 3, 1962 at 77 years old from a heart attack. She was a member of
the Senate for 32 years. Over that time, she suffered cancer, osteoporosis, two
broken hips and a shoulder from falls. Her beloved husband Norman died in July,
1956 at age 79.  A secondary school in
Orleans, Canada was named after her. Cairine’s accomplishments as a female
pioneer in the Senate forged a solid path for many Canadian women to follow.