At first glance, you probably wouldn’t have pegged Ann Southam as a philanthropist.
She had no qualms, for example, about once walking into an upscale Yorkville restaurant in her trademark track pants and using a freebie shopping bag as a purse, remembers her brother, Kip. In fact, he says, she left the restaurant staff shocked when she was the one who picked up the bill.
Though she was born into the Southam newspaper family, Ann wasn’t a fashionista or a materialist. She devoted her life to both making music and making a difference – particularly when it came to advancing gender equality. She is recognized as one of Canada’s first prominent female composers – a trailblazer in the male-dominated classical music world, who went on to become a Member of the Order of Canada. Feminism influenced her compositions, which often paid tribute to the repetitive nature of traditional women’s tasks, like spinning, weaving, and housework.
“Ann became a feminist about six months after she was born,” Kip says. “She had a real sense of anger about the injustice of gender inequality.” She became involved with many causes, and played an active role as a donor and volunteer at the Canadian Women’s Foundation for 12 years. “Ann cared passionately about making positive change for women and girls in Canada. I believe she found a home with us,” said Bev Wybrow, who was the Foundation’s CEO at the time.
Though Ann died in 2010, she continues to breathe life and passion into the Foundation’s work through an extraordinary bequest that she made in her will, which amounted to $17 million. Ann’s gift is the largest single donation a community-based Canadian women’s organization has ever received from an individual. It raised the Foundation’s work and impact to a new level and – as we approach our 30th anniversary – it has inspired the creation of the Ann Southam Feminist Legacy Circle.
The Circle invites donors like you to share your intention to leave a bequest to the Foundation, and become a lifetime member of the Circle. Though your future gift will not be realized for many years, we want you to become a part of the Foundation family today – to find a home among like-minded gender equality supporters as Ann once did. We’re grateful that Ann’s brother Kip has become part of our family, and is working with us to launch the Legacy Circle.
Kip credits Ann with raising his awareness of issues like intimate partner violence and the need to support services that help women rebuild their lives. Through his own involvement with the Foundation, he’s become increasingly conscious of the links between gender inequality, the status quo, and stereotypical masculinity. He jokes that he’s started trying to advocate in his own quirky ways – like wearing a “Machismo is Overrated” T-shirt that he had custom made.
More recently, he says, “the news about people like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, and the rise of the #MeToo Movement has motivated me to want to participate in any way I can.” He believes in the Legacy Circle’s potential to impact the lives of women and girls, and understands that the need is urgent. The Foundation can fund only 10 per cent of the grant applications we receive, but those who join the Legacy Circle will help the Foundation to invest in so many more, as well as work toward systemic change to advance gender equality.
One of Ann’s favourite sayings was: “When women have power, girls can dream.” Her inspiring generosity continues to give rise to new dreams and, ultimately, the Ann Southam Feminist Legacy Circle can help to make the dream of gender equality in Canada a reality.
We invite you to step into the Circle, and join us in leaving that powerful legacy for women and girls throughout Canada.