Living an Outspoken Life: Lessons from Simma Holt
This past January, we said goodbye to one of British Columbia’s – and Canada’s – influential women who worked tirelessly to change the game for women in Canadian journalism and politics.
A woman known for her outspoken and fearless character, Simma Holt came from humble beginnings. Born 1922 in Vegreville, Alberta where her interest in journalism was sparked and fostered by the sole proprietor of the small town’s paper, her life’s work as a trail-blazing female journalist truly began during studies at the University of Manitoba. As a student during World War II, Simma became the first female editor at the university’s student newspaper The Manitoban, and university correspondent for The Winnipeg Free Press. Many comedic accounts are recounted of Simma’s shining moment clogging up the teletype machine at the Canadian Press in Calgary on D-Day.
At the end of the war, Simma headed west, taking a position as a journalist with The Vancouver Sun, the start of a 30 year career. She was an anomaly for the profession at a time when reporters, feature writers and columnists were positions held by men – other than the women’s “Keeper of the Home” column! Simma paved the way for females in this male-dominated field, telling the hard-edged stories of Vancouver’s crime scene, prostitution, and the marginalized underdogs. She put herself in places and circumstances that were deemed irrational and inappropriate… for a woman. Being female never held her back.
In 1974, Simma became 1 of 2 women representing BC in the Canadian House of Commons, where she stood against the anti-Semantic and anti-feminist attitude of peers. Upon reflection of her time in politics, Simma most notably stated it as being a “silly old boys club & waste of time!”. She couldn’t wait to get back to journalism.
Across her lifetime, Simma made many contributions to society, notably recognized as the first female journalist in BC inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame, and her Membership to the Order of Canada for her “lifetime commitment to assisting those suffering from injustice, persecution and poverty”.
As we recognize a woman whose life is marked by the determination and perseverance to march onward and upward in the face of adversity, be inspired to blaze your own trail. Do nothing peacefully or quietly. Make your mark on this world bold and resounding for the women who come behind you.