Grace Sparkes (1908 – 2003)

Grace Sparkes
Archives and Special Collections, Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University

Grace Patten Sparkes was a political activist and a passionate teacher. Born in Grand Bank, Newfoundland and Labrador, she attended Mount Allisonh University in 1928 and went on to medical school at the University of Toronto. Forced to drop out due to financial difficulties, Sparkes returned home to Newfoundland, completed teacher training at Memorial University, and began teaching, first in Grand Bank, then at the Twillingate hospital. She eventually married, moved to St. John's, and rallied against Newfoundland's efforts to join Confederation. Sparkes ran for political office on several occasions, none successful, and returned to teaching after her husband's death in 1949. A pioneer for women in the workforce, Sparkes remained an outspoken political activist and community advocate. In later life, she took up the cause of seniors' rights. A ferry and a centre for women fleeing domestic abuse are named in her honour.

“I don’t like people being railroaded. And of course when you’ve got a lack of information about things going on, it puts up a barrier – and it makes my hackles rise.”

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