The Honourable Nancy Ruth, CM, LLD, is a feminist, social activist and feminist philanthropist. She worked for the United Church of Canada from 1963-1986 as well as in various church organizations. From 2005 to 2017, she served as an Ontario Senator in the Senate of Canada.
Born in Toronto on 6 January 1942, and christened Nancy Ruth Jackman, she chooses to be called Nancy Ruth as a single name in 1994, the day her mother died. She is the daughter of Mary Coyne Rowell Jackman, known for her support of Canadian art, craft, culture, and early childhood education, and Harry Jackman, former MP (1940-1949) and financier. She is the granddaughter of Nellie Langford Rowell, a pioneering advocate for women, children and the poor, and Newton Wesley Rowell, former MPP, MP and Ontario Liberal Party leader.
Her paternal grandfather, Henry B. Jackman, rose in the ranks of The Taylor [Chubb] Safe Company, while her paternal grandmother, Sara Ann, did church and volunteer work.
A United Church Minister by training and an activist by choice, Nancy Ruth is a leading advocate of the incorporation of Canada’s constitutional equality rights into Canadian public policy and institutions. She co-founded, and served as a director and officer of organizations devoted to achieving full civil, legal, economic, political, and cultural rights for women and girls in all their diversity, including:
• CREF-Charter of Rights Educational Fund and CORC-Charter of Rights Coalition
• The 1981 Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution
• LEAF-Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund/Fonds d’action et d’éducation juridiques pours les femmes.
• CWF- Canadian Women’s Foundation/ Fondation Canadienne pours les femmes
• The Linden School
• Nancy’s Very Own Foundation, which focuses on poverty, violence, health and peace
• Women’s Future Fund/ Les Fonds pour l’avenir des femmes
• www.section15.ca, an online women's’ history site.
• Play Fair – a film about women in sport
• www.singallofus.ca – a site dedicated to making O Canada (Canada’s national anthem) gender-neutral
Nancy Ruth has served on the Board of Directors of the Economic Council of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Arms Control, the Canada-USA Fulbright Foundation, The Doctor's Hospital Foundation, Mount Saint Vincent University, the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, and the Paralympic Foundation.
As a Senator, she successfully advocated for the addition of sex, age and disability to Canada’s Criminal Code provisions on hate propaganda; improved gender-based analysis for all federal policies and programs; access to medically assisted dying; and, the 2018 restoration of a gender-neutral English national anthem.
As a businesswoman, she has been involved with residential land development and environmental products.
Nancy Ruth ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the 1990 Ontario election and in a 1993 Ontario by-election. In 1993, she represented Canada at the UN elections in Cambodia.
Nancy Ruth has made significant donations to various feminist educational, health, cultural, museum and archival activities.
Nancy Ruth’s contributions to social change have been recognized nationally and internationally. She was awarded the Order of Canada (1994); the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Person's Case (1997); the Augusta Stowe Gullen Medal (2014); the Government of Ontario’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Human Rights (1998); the Toronto YWCA Women of Distinction Award (1988); the Hero Award, Metropolitan Community Church, Toronto (2000); the South African Women for Women Friendship Award (2004); and the Charles Sauriol Greenspace Award (2007). She served as a Fellow of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, Montreal, (1991). She holds honorary degrees from York, Trent, Laurentian and Mount Saint Vincent Universities.