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Shirley Elizabeth (E.) Greenberg (née Schnell) was born to George Schnell and Elizabeth Bertha Schnell in 1931, in Ottawa, Ontario. In 1959 she was married to Irving Greenberg (1928-1991); she had three children.
Throughout her law studies and professional practice, Dr. Greenberg worked for women’s legal equality through advocacy, philanthropy and education.
In the early 1970s, Shirley E. Greenberg was inspired by second-wave feminism to pursue a law degree with the University of Ottawa. She attended law school as a mature, married student and as a mother of three. From March 14-16, 1974, Shirley E. Greenberg attended the founding conference of the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL).
Working with the University of Ottawa’s NAWL chapter, Shirley E. Greenberg helped administer the organization’s 1975 summer project, delivering programs that raised awareness of the impact of legal inequities on women’s lives.
Shelley E. Greenberg also conducted research and wrote extensively about legal topics affecting women, such as child custody, family law, pensions, and unemployment insurance. She wrote for such feminist publications as “Upstream.”
Dr. Greenberg helped found the Ottawa Women’s Centre Association—a vital resource for community women. She also volunteered with Ottawa’s Rape Crisis Centre and Interval House.
After graduating from law school in 1976, Shirley E. Greenberg co-founded Ottawa’s first all-female law practice, in 1978. The law practice hosted women articling students, helping women establish law careers in male-dominated spaces. She was awarded an honourary doctorate from the University of Ottawa in 2003.
Shirley E. Greenberg also became a noted philanthropist. In 2005, she endowed the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession in the Common Law Section of the Faculty of Law, designated for feminist law faculty members. She established the Shirley E. Greenberg Women's Health Centre at the Ottawa Hospital’s Riverside campus, in 2005. In 2013 she funded the Shirley E. Greenberg Breast Cancer Imaging Suite at the Queensway Carleton Hospital. She established the Shirley E. Greenberg Resource Centre for Women at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.
In 2014, Shirley Greenberg was awarded the Outstanding Individual Philanthropist honour by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), in 2014. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2009 and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, in 2012.