OTTAWA — The Green Party of Canada commemorates the extraordinary life of Betty (Elizabeth Eileen) Nickerson, the party’s first federal election candidate, who died last month at the age of 98. Ms. Nickerson ran in a by-election for the B.C. riding of Mission-Port Moody in 1983 and stood again a year later in the party’s first general election.
Born during a tornado in Fort Scott, Kansas, Betty grew up in Oregon. During the Second World War she worked as a radio broadcaster and was deeply involved in the civil rights movement, marching arm in arm with her black friends during the civil rights movement in the US. The family moved to Canada in 1954.
Betty put herself through college on debating scholarships, eventually earning her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Utah in 1946. In 1967 she received an M.A. in Sociology and Agriculture from the University of Manitoba. Post-graduate studies in Interdisciplinary Communications at McGill, coupled with her debating skills served her well when she ran for the Green Party.
One of her greatest passions was encouraging creativity in young people.
From 1957 to 1963 Betty hosted an after school children’s TV art program known as “Busy Fingers”. Children around Winnipeg sent the “Busy Fingers Lady” lots of their artwork. She gathered representative bundles of their pictures and sent them to art teachers in other countries with the message: “This is how our children see the world around them. How do your children see their world?” Bundles of pictures came back from more than 50 nations. In her last TV season, titled “Children of the World”, she provided cultural geography lessons to her viewers using paintings made by children like themselves, in other lands. Later, she illustrated two books with the pictures. “Celebrate the Sun” described festivities from around the world and around the year, and “How the World Grows its Food” did the same for local agriculture. Some of the children’s art collection is posted here.
In 1982, Betty moved to the West Coast with her second husband Dr. Seymour Trieger, who was the second leader of the Green Party of Canada from 1984 to 1988. Betty’s lifelong concern for the environment propelled her to run for the federal Green Party.
In later years she became concerned with the place of older women in our society and wrote “Old and Smart: Women and the Adventure of Aging”, published in 1991.
A full list of Betty Nickerson’s books is posted here.
During her remarkable life Betty received numerous accolades, awards and appointments. In 1979 she was the Canadian Commissioner to the UN International Year of the Child and in 1977 was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. Greens remember Betty for her passion, dedication and advocacy as well as her lifetime commitment to the core Green values. We extend our condolences to Betty’s family and friends for their loss.
It seems fitting that she died just hours after the swearing in of the first woman, and a woman of colour no less, as the Vice President of the United States. It represents much of what she stood for in her life.
“Keep your eyes on the stars, and do what’s possible.” — Betty Nickerson
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