Traditionally, ENF buildings have been named after grandmothers and mothers of members of ENF. Grandmothers’ and mothers’ work has often gone unrecognized, and the naming of the buildings after these women honours the contribution they have made to their families, their communities and to the life of the ENF member.
Alma Gertrude Blackwell
(Building: Alma Blackwell)
Born in a small town in southern Saskatchewan, Alma Blackwell, April English’s grandmother (one of the original founding members of ENF) was one of 14 children. By the time she was ten years old both her parents had died and she was sent to live with an older sister in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Upon arrival she discovered that her sister had already moved on and Alma was taken in by the staff of the downtown Winnipeg YWCA.
In her teen years, with only a Grade 4 education, Alma was already working for a living. Alma’s first of two daughters’ was borne when Alma was only sixteen years old. After several years of struggle and a forced marriage, Alma began her own business to support her young family. Going door to door, she sold support and surgical garments for Spenser-Spirella. Eventually she became the top seller for several consecutive years.
On her death in 1974, Alma left her daughters comfortably provided for. She was also survived by seven grandchildren and several great-grandchildren whose lives were made special by her love.
Alma was a woman whose strong belief in the importance of family kept her family together through all life’s ups and downs. Through the years her hopeful and flexible approach to living allowed her to remain current with the changes in the world around her. Her entrepreneurial spirit created a place for her and her family. She was an everyday woman whose belief in peace, harmony and cooperation among all people made these ideals actual realities in the lives of the people who knew her.
Margaret MacDonald Martin
(Building: Margaret Heights)
Born in Kaukapakapa, New Zealand, in 1892, Margaret was a second generation New Zealander, whose family originated from England. Margaret was Debbie Anderson’s (one of the original members of ENF) grandmother.
Margaret was married at 17 years of age and raised her 9 children on a 100 acre dairy farm near the small town of Otorohanga.
Throughout her 80 years, Margaret was well-known for her generosity and her commitment to serving her community.
Her official contribution was her active membership in the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers. This organization raised funds to contribute to various women’s groups in the community, one of which was the Plunket Society, the first well baby clinic in the world.
What her granddaughter and daughter remember most about Margaret was her loving and generous spirit as she quietly went about caring for the elderly, tending her garden and doing what needed to be done in her community.
Margaret’s knowledge of herb lore and folk remedies in the tradition of wise women continues to be passed down from daughter to daughter and it is her spirit that ENF invokes as the Society continues the tradition of her generosity and caring in ENF’s own communities.
(Building: Natalia Terrace)
Natalia Jeastrzembska is the mother of one of the original members of Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society, Christina Jastrzembska.
Born in Poland in 1925, Natalia’s tranquil childhood exploded with the advent of World War II. Losing everything, including her brother and her mother, she found herself in Germany after the war, where she met her husband, a concentration camp survivor.
In 1952, as refugees, Natalia, her husband and two young daughters settled in the United States, where, with no money and little grasp of the English language, life was very difficult.
Only her integrity, resourcefulness and sense of humour kept the family together as they struggled to maintain a home in New Jersey. Eventually, a small business was started.
Natalia helped keep it going, as well as raising her children, instilling in them the values of their ancestors. Her love and hope for a better life for her children never faltered.
And finally, at the age of 50, she allowed herself to be uprooted again, and moved to Winnipeg, where she lived with her husband, both as Canadian citizens.
This is the story of a woman whose ability to continue in spite of immeasurable odds against her, whose love and faith in the goodness of humanity inspired her children and all those who came into contact with her to persevere in their fight for justice, honesty and integrity in their lives and their communities.
Jessica Ellen Johanne Tullock
(Building: Jessica Place)
Jessica Tullock was Darlyn Jewwitt’s grandmother. Darlyn was one of the original members of ENF.
Jessica was born on December 23, 1916 at Lethbridge, Alberta. Her mother Gertrude came to Canada from England; her father from the Shetland Islands, Scotland.
During her high school years, Jessie played baseball and basketball on the town teams.
At the age of 15, Jessie went to Edmonton to take a
hairdressing course. She returned to Lethbridge and opened a hair salon, which at one time had fifteen operators.
At 22, Jessie married Ross Nilsson and eventually had her only child, a daughter.
After her marriage ended in divorce, Jessie moved to Vancouver, B.C. with her child. In Vancouver she shared housing and child care with two other single mothers.
Jessie worked night shift for the nickelodeon company. When people put 5 cents in the machine, she would ask them what song they would like to hear and she would play it for them.
During this time, she tended the children in the day while the other two women worked and they tended her daughter at night.
It was during this time of her life that Jessie dreamed of clean, safe and affordable housing, specifically designed for single parents, surrounded by outdoor playgrounds and complete with 24 hour child care on site. The Second World War had just ended and there were a lot of single parents and war widows in Vancouver but there was no financial backing for her dream.
Eventually Jessie remarried Cecil Mansfield Burke, an executive for Lenkurt Electric. During the marriage Jessie worked as an Adjudicator for the Unemployment Insurance Commission, golfed as a member of the Marine Drive Golf Course and raised her daughter.
Eventually, her daughter grew up and presented her with two delightful granddaughters.
After Cecil died, Jessie continued to work and eventually married “Red” Martin, a pro basketball player turned engineer out of Victoria.
After “Red” died, Jessie moved to Westbank, B.C. where she lived in co-op housing specifically designed for seniors.
During her 70’s Jessie fell ill and returned to live in Vancouver with her daughter and granddaughters. In 1986, at the age of 72, Jessie died.
She was a hard-working, fast thinking, quick to laugh woman who questioned the taboos and traditions she was brought up with. She was a radical humanist long before this philosophy was given a label. The children she connected with during her lifetime loved her dearly.
(Building: Beatrice Terrace)
Beatrice Teitel, Bertha Stone…Leslie Stern, her granddaughter and one of the founding members of ENF, says that their family is not exactly sure when she was born or what her given name was.
She came from Poland with her family at the age of 6 months in the early 1900’s. At the border they named her Bertha. Later she named herself Beatrice and chose her own birthday.
Married at 16, she was a mother at 17 and a grandmother before she was 40. And what a wonderful grandmother she was…the embodiment of unconditional love and joy…the core of a lively and warm family!
What made her special was her appreciation of everyday things and her matter-of-fact but exciting stories. Her family loved to hear her tell of 5 sisters in bed and she the smallest; how, when a bigger sister rolled over, she fell on the floor. They could all picture her father’s bakery truck and the day his horse went wild. Every holiday she made dinner for a large extended family. She provided a link with the past, a steady present and a joyful look forward.
Leslie’s grandmother died in 1984 just as the group was submitting their first proposal and first became Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society.
She would have been very proud of her granddaughter and the Society and very pleased that Beatrice Terrace was named after her. Leslie is of the firm belief that within the walls of the building rests her grandmother’s sense of light, laughter and joyousness.
(Building: Antkiw Court)
Mia Stewart Cross’s (one of the founding members of ENF) grandmother, Mary Antkiw, was born in Tyrnopol, Ukraine, on Urkrainian New Year’s Day, January 14, 1900. It was believed that any one born on New Year’s Day would be very prosperous and so it proved to be.
She married John Antkiw at the age of 15. Soon after she was married, and while still a young bride, John went off to fight for the Russian forces in the First World War. He was captured in Italy and spent five years as a prisoner of war. During this time, he was not permitted to communicate with his family. Mary was told by everyone in the village that he must be dead and she should forget him and re-marry. However, she never gave up hope for his safe return. One can only imagine her joy when she saw John coming up the laneway after walking half-way across Europe to return to his wife and home.
Mary’s first child was born in 1921 and the second in 1924. Shortly thereafter, John left for the new world, Canada, to begin a new life. For 11 years, Mary was a single mother. Not only did she look after their little farm but she was also a very devoted mother and wife.
Finally, her husband had the farm in Canada paid for and with a strong commitment to family unity she joined her husband in Canada in 1937. Mary and her children were on the last ship to leave Russia before the border was closed. Both of Mary’s daughters spoke of the hardship they went through with their mother in trying to get away from the European hostilities. They left with only the clothes on their backs and whatever they could carry.
From these beginnings, Mary Antkiw and her husband built a successful farm on the outskirts of Simcoe, Ontario.
Mary Antkiw had a very strong philosophy that land was wealth and more important than money. She used to say: “If you have land, then you can plant seeds and have food and never go hungry. If you have land, you can always put shelter up to protect yourself from the weather and keep warm and dry. If you have land, you have a place for yourself and your family.”
The example of Mary’s pioneering spirit and her relationship with land and her devotion, belief and commitment to family unity is what ENF embraces in their philosophy.
(Building: Constance Court)
Derek Murphy’s (one of the original members of ENF) mother was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1913. Constance was raised in a very middle-class family. Constance eventually became a full-time parent, with five children. Her husband was a manager/owner of a medium sized factory.
Prior to her marriage, Constance took six years of professional training, becoming a public health nurse in 1933, during the depths of the depression in Europe.
Constance worked in a variety of settings, specializing in children with mental handicaps. During World War II, she continued to work as a nurse in Holland. These years were difficult, with deep poverty and military oppression.
After the war, Constance began to work in refugee camps in Germany. There she met her future husband (Brian Murphy) who she married in 1946. Brian was a director of medical and mental health services in a number of camps which served a variety of European nationalities, especially Jewish and Polish refugees.
Her marriage to Brian was somewhat controversial, since as a Catholic, Constance was strongly discouraged from marrying Brian who was an agnostic from Protestant parents. Throughout her life, Constance remained a devout Catholic, though strongly rooted in the Dutch tradition of reform and tolerance.
Over the next five years, Constance gave birth to four children: Ian and Danuta (born in Germany), Lorenzo (born in Naples, Italy) and Derek (born in London, England).
After leaving the refugee camps in Germany, Constance, Brian and the first two children went to Italy where Brian worked in a refugee camp for Jews trying to emigrate to the emerging Israel. Then the family went to Britain for two years, before heading off to Singapore where the family spent the next five years (1952-1957). During this time, Constance was a full-time parent, raising her young family.
In Singapore her husband was responsible for establishing a medical service for students at the University of Singapore.
The next move was to New York (Staten island), where Constance had her fifth and last child, Fiona.
After two years in New York, Constance and Brian decided to leave for Montreal. A major reason for moving was the suffocating conservative political atmosphere in the U.S. in the late 1950’s.
Within the Catholic Church, Constance had difficulty with conservative priests who objected to her taking her children to a non-denominational ‘world peace’ camp, where Jews, blacks and communists were welcome.
As well, both Constance and Brian, raised in the social democracies of Europe, found the lack of social programs and social conscience distressing.
Lastly, fear of being ‘black listed’ and of the military draft for their three sons, provided further incentive to move to Canada and Montreal in 1959.
In Montreal, Constance continued to raise her family. However, due to financial difficulties she returned to work, part-time, as a nurse. Throughout the ‘70’s Constance remained very active in the community, volunteering in a variety of activities.
In addition, Constance continued her studies, obtaining a Diploma in Gerontology in 1978, at the age of 65. She applied her training primarily as a volunteer with community and church organizations supporting isolated seniors.
Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s Constance and Brian traveled extensively, living for up to twelve months at a time in Hawaii, Fiji and Singapore.
Brian died in 1987 and Constance lived on her own thereafter. She stayed close to the three of her children who continued to live in or close to Montreal. She spent much of her time with her many grandchildren and was active in the seniors housing complex where she lived.
In her later years her health was up and down. Once a vigorous and physically active woman, she had to start limiting her numerous activities.
Throughout her life, Constance was motivated by a strong sense of right and wrong. Having experienced the horrors of World War II and its aftermath, Constance and Brian always had a special concern for human rights and were strong supporters of Amnesty International.
Their sense of social justice always came from an international perspective, deploring the narrowness and self-interest that permeated North American society. Most importantly, Constance and her husband worked together to instill in their children, their friends and colleagues a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to social justice and to making a difference in one’s daily life.