At no time didthe Senator take a more public stand against her leader’s views than on Oct. 2,1938, when in her capacity as the first and only president of the League ofNations Society in Canada, she issued a statement condemning the MunichAgreement. In doing so, she pitted herself not only against King but alsoagainst many other influential Liberals. Cairine’scontributions to improving the lives of Canadians were many. Health insurance,infant and mother mortality, easing divorce laws, education and workingconditions, and trying to expand immigration for desperate Jewish refugees andorphaned children from war-torn countries were the greatest issues for SenatorWilson. She was dubbed “Mother of the Refugees” for her kindhearted if notalways successful endeavors.
Canadahad the worst record of all the Allies in accepting Jewish refugees. After thewar, until her death in 1962, Wilson continued to advocate for immigrationreform and the resettlement of refugees. In the 1930s, genteel anti-Semitismamong the Canadian establishment was considered by most as the norm. Wilson,however, fought against the tide and her class to speak for those who had novoice. The firsts for Cairine Wilson only began withthe Senate seat.
In 1949, she became Canada’s first female delegate to theUnited Nations General Assembly, the first woman to chair the Senate StandingCommittee on Immigration and Labour, and the first woman to chair the CanadianNational Committee on Refugees. She earned the honour of being the first womanto become Deputy Speaker of the Canadian House of Parliament in 1955.For her tirelessefforts on behalf of Canadians and immigrants, Cairine received several awards:· HonouraryDoctorate in DCL from Acadia University, 1941· HonouraryDoctorate from Queen’s University, 1943· Crossof the Knight of the Legion of Honour, from France, 1950· Named”Mother of the Year” by the American Mothers Committee of New York· B’nai B’rith Woman of the Year, 1960The Honourable Cairine Wilsondied on March 3, 1962 at 77 years old from a heart attack. She was a member ofthe Senate for 32 years. Over that time, she suffered cancer, osteoporosis, twobroken hips and a shoulder from falls. Her beloved husband Norman died in July,1956 at age 79. A secondary school inOrleans, Canada was named after her.
Cairine’s accomplishments as a femalepioneer in the Senate forged a solid path for many Canadian women to follow.