Scott honored for commitment to social justice

Honorary degree — Jean Scott
Scott honored for commitment to social justice 

Jean Scott of Chilliwack has become the first woman to receive an honorary degree from the University College of the Fraser Valley.

Jean, who turned 90 in April, has been a social activist longer than most people have been alive. She has devoted her life to causes that promote social justice, women’s equality, and the rights of the common person. She also has a strong commitment to community service.

Jean Scott in the Shakespeare Garden on
the UCFV Chilliwack campus.

She is well known both locally and nationally for her contributions. She received Canada’s Person’s Medal, recognizing outstanding contribution to promoting women’s equality, in 1990.

“I’ve received a lot of honours in my life, but this honorary degree is very special to me because a university education was something I always wanted, but never got the opportunity to pursue,” says Jean.

“Jean Scott exemplifies the virtues of lifelong learning, social progress, community service, and the enrichment of the quality of life,” says UCFV president Skip Bassford. “She has had an enormous positive impact on her community and her country, and is very deserving of this honorary degree.”

Coming of age in the Great Depression meant that Jean never got the chance to go to university: she spent her twenties as a domestic servant. But she has always valued education, and is a lifelong learner and frequent participant in Eldercollege courses at the UCFV Chilliwack campus. Encouraging education has been an underlying theme of much of the work she has undertaken.

Jean worked in the union movement for many years, and emphasized education through workshops and seminars throughout her career as an organizer and union activist. Her commitment to social justice also led to decades of volunteer work and support for the CCF and NDP political parties.

Jean signing the honorary degree guestbook with UCFV president Skip Bassford and UCFV board chair Rob Nicklom.

Jean first began to advocate on behalf of women after noticing that male hired hands were paid 50 percent more than female domestic servants in the 1930s. She has devoted her life to struggling for equal rights and pay for women, and against violence and discrimination against women.

She has been involved with transition houses for battered women since their inception in B.C. in the 1970s, and played an integral role in founding the Ann Davis house in Chilliwack and the transition house that bears her name in Hope.

She has been an executive member of local, provincial, and national councils of women.

Starting in the early 1950s, she has spoken on or advocated for such then-revolutionary topics as whether married women should work outside the home, the need for daycare for children of working parents, divorce reform, and wage equity.

Since “retiring” to Chilliwack in 1980, she has continued to be very active, both in relation to women’s issues and social justice, and to general community affairs.

“This honorary degree is very special to me because a university education was something I always wanted, but never got the opportunity to pursue,”
— Jean Scott

Even in her tenth decade, she has organized commemorative events for International Women’s Day, the December 6 memorial of the Montreal Massacre, and Person’s Day, commemorating when Canadian women were officially recognized as persons (1929).

Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s she has been president of the boards of the Chilliwack Academy of Music and the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society. She formed the Heritage Singers group. Despite being blind in one eye, she volunteers as a reader at McCammon Elementary school. She speaks to high school classes on topics related to social justice and women’s rights.

She jokingly notes that now that she’s 90 she’s turned into a “nice old lady with a cat”, but Jean is seldom found in a rocking chair. She no longer drives, but has a full schedule of meetings, potlucks, classes, volunteer sessions, and other activities. She recently began taking guitar lessons. When at home she works on writing her life story.

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