WOW Gal Angel
   Shirley Geraldine Edwina Carr

Born in Niagara Falls, Ont, Shirley came from a family of Nova Scotians and was fiercely proud of her roots.

Shirley traveled on peace and human rights missions from Ottawa to Whitehall in the United Kingdom, to the White House in the USA, to the Kremlin in the former USSR. With strong beliefs in equality and genuine compassion for her fellow citizens, she fought relentlessly to better the lives of others.

Shirley was the first woman to be not only President of the CLC (Canadian Labour Congressbut also of any national labour body. She was elected in 1974 as CLC Vice-President and later served as Secretary-Treasurer before serving as President from 1986 to 1992.

She originally became active in 1960 in CUPE Local 133 and went on to become President of the Ontario Division of CUPE (in 1972-74 and serve on the National Executive Board of CUPE.(Canadian Union of Public Employees).

During her presidency, the CLC adopted the technique of fostering community alliances which has been a hallmark of successful labour campaigns ever since.

Shirley's presidency saw the beginning of the CLC’s campaign against free trade with the United States. At a time when many supported the concept or claimed labour’s voice would be ignored on economic matters, the campaign succeeded in turning public opinion against the deal that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made with the late US President Ronald Reagan.

Shirley first became active in the labour movement in 1960, when she joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees and served in various capacities at the local, provincial, regional, and national levels.

Alongside her work at the CLC, Shirley was an active participant in the international labour movement. From 1980 to 1985 she was a member of the governing body of the International Labour Organization, and acted as Chairperson for the Workers’ Group for the Committee on Discrimination and the Committee on Apartheid. She also served as Vice President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Chairperson of Commonwealth Trade Union Council, and Vice President of the ILO United Nations Agency.

Shirley received numerous awards for her work. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980, and an Officer of the Order of Ontario in 1995. She received the Centennial Medal for Exemplary Contribution to Vocational/Technical Education (1980), the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Federation (1992), and the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case (1994).

“We are all saddened to learn of the death of Sister Shirley Carr,” commented CLC President Ken Georgetti. “She was the first woman in the world ever to be elected as leader of a national labour body, and she was a pioneer in many ways.

Shirley moved women’s rights to the top of the labour agenda and she was a determined opponent of apartheid." 

In 1992 she was awarded Venezuela’s prestigious Order of Diego de Losada, First Class, for her work against apartheid and in defending trade union rights around the world. 

Her rise to leadership reflected the growth in membership and influence of these two constituencies in the labour movement as it adapted to a changing economy with larger public and service sectors.

Shirley was definitely an Angel to not only the Women she served but to all she spent endless hours and energy on improving their lives. It had a trickle down effect on their families as well


Shirley was a proud and active member of (Business & Professional Women) BPW NIAGARA FALLS which is celebrating it's 100th Year in service (1917-2017).  To commemorate this anniversary the Provincial Conference is being held in Niagara Falls this year. They have also created a 64 page full Color Commemorative Magazine celebrating women over the last 100 years and is available to Public at a nominal fee.

Business and Professional Women Mission Statement: "BPW develops the professional, business and leadership potential of women on all levels through advocacy, mentoring, networking, skill building and economic empowerment programs and projects around the world."

Contributed by Fellow BPW Member & BPW Niagara Falls Past President  & WOW Gal Nancy Broerse

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