My favourite story of 2011 - Ontario nursing home and an Ireland-mad Canadian girl

Tara Muzumdar and Edra Ferguson
2011, by any standards, has been an incredibly busy year. The first two months alone, where the government fell in the most chaotic manner possible before exploding at the ballot box on impact, felt like an aeon all of itself. But in spite of this, and the great state of geopolitical flux that has unfolded before our eyes this year, my favourite story of 2011 doesn’t involve revolution or summits. It involves an Ontario nursing home, and an Ireland-mad Canadian girl.

Edra Ferguson was 103 and living in Belmont House in Toronto when a member of staff who regularly spent time with her, Tara Muzumdar, started looking through some of her books. What she discovered came as some surprise. Edra, unknown to seemingly everyone, was one of the first women in Canada to go to law school, the first female judge in Ontario, the first woman elected to city council in her hometown, and also ran for Mayor. And she did all this in the 1920s and 30s.

Tara, a frequent and fervent visitor to Ireland, was struck by the pioneering achievements of the woman in her charge, and resolved to do something. So she nominated Edra for the Order of Canada and, in the word of Edra’s son, orchestrated a media interest that went first national, then global.

After a life of firsts that had over the years got buried, a couple of days before her 104th birthday, Edra then added another illustrious honor to the list: becoming the oldest ever recipient of the Order.

It’s been a news year with a disproportionate amount of challenge, tragedy and woe. And that’s why this marvelous story about the kindness and initiative of Tara, and the incredible woman she stood up for is my favorite of the year.


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