James Shaver Woodsworth is one of many University of Toronto alumnus who made such an incredible impact as to have a college named after him (conveniently the one I belong to!). Here’s an overview of Woodsworth’s work and achievements that made him an influential leader of our nation.
Woodsworth followed in his father’s footsteps and began his career as a Methodist minister at the age of twenty-two. He later attended the University of Toronto at Victoria College and University of Oxford in England where his interest in social work sparked. After his return to Canada, he worked as a minister in Grace Church in Winnipeg but it was clear he was unsatisfied in this position. He moved on to work with poor immigrant families where he gained enough passion to fight for programmes supporting social welfare. Being an advocate for socioeconomic change, Woodsworth also published many books promoting pay equity and a socialist state. He left the church and was appointed secretary of the Canadian Welfare League where he travelled around through the Prairies investigating and reporting on social conditions in those provinces.
One of Woodsworth’s most notable accomplishments was founding and leading a new socialist party in 1932 called the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), with the goal of leading Canada on its own Socialist model, deterring from other established American or British political models. In 1933, the CCF became the official opposition party in British Columbia and in Saskatchewan in 1934.
In 1939, Woodsworth had difficulty securing the support of his party for opposing Canada’s entry into World War II. During the debate on the declaration of the war, Mackenzie King expressed opposition for Woodsworth’s position as well, but praised him for speaking his mind regardless of what the world might think of him. He noted that any man of that nature is an exceptional addition to Parliament.
J.S Woodsworth had a strong influence in Canadian social policy and his memory is still held and respected within the New Democratic Party of Canada.