The Women Behind Haven Toronto: May Birchard, Founder

May Birchard was one of the first female City Councillors in Toronto and an influential anti-poverty activist.

During WWI, her family moved to Winnipeg where, in the early 30s, she founded The Good Neighbours’ Club. On her return to Toronto, Birchard opened a second location of the Club, now called Haven Toronto.

It is still in operation today on Jarvis Street at Shuter.

May Birchard first served as a Toronto school board trustee in 1942. At the height of the war she pushed for daycare for the children of women helping with the war effort and for free meals for impoverished children.

May Birchard was elected to City Council in 1946. She represented Ward 2 of Toronto which was a mixed area west of the Don River. The northern part of the riding was Rosedale, the wealthiest part of the city. To the south was Cabbagetown, then one of the poorest neighbour-hoods.

On council she pushed for women’s rights, most notably on improving access to birth control. She was also an advocate for the poor and for more social housing, including strong support for the Regent Park project that was built in her ward in the era.

In honour of her efforts, a Toronto Community Housing Corporation building at Dundas and Broadview was named the May Birchard Apartments.

In celebration of International Women's Day, Haven Toronto unveiled a commemorative stamp to honour May Birchard. The stamp is available online only at Proceeds support programs and services in support of elder men impacted by poverty, homelessness and social isolation.

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