Konantz, Margaret

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Konantz, Margaret

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  • Konantz, Margaret McTavish
  • Rogers, Margaret McTavish

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Margaret McTavish Konantz was born Margaret McTavish Rogers in 1899, the daughter of Robert Arthur Rogers and Edith McTavish Rogers. Her father, who had been a successful private banker in Parkhill, Ontario, moved to Winnipeg in 1890 where he established a wholesale produce company. Fifteen years later, he opened the Crescent Creamery Company which he operated successfully until his death. Her mother was the daughter of Donald McTavish and Lydia Catherine Christie (who was Métis). Margaret Konantz's great-grandparents were Betsy Sinclair (who was Métis) and Sir George Simpson, Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson's Bay Company Territories from 1839 to 1860. In 1920 Edith Rogers was elected to the Provincial Legislative Assembly, thereby becoming the first woman in Manitoba to hold such a position. She was an MLA from 1920 to 1932.

Margaret Konantz grew up at 64 Nassau Street in south Winnipeg. She attended the Model School, Bishop Strachan School and Havergal College in Toronto. After completing her studies at Bishop Strachan School, she attended Miss Spence's School in New York. In 1922 she married Gordon Konantz, an American who, after serving with the forces in France, moved to Winnipeg. They had three children, Barbara, William and Gordon.

In the late 1920s Margaret Konantz began collecting books for the Winnipeg Hospital Aid Society, thus initiating a career of service which was to continue throughout her life. She was a founding member of the Junior League of Winnipeg and eventually became a major fund-raiser for that organization. She was President of the Junior League from 1928 to 1930. During this time she was instrumental in organizing the Junior League Thrift Shop, and subsequently served on its board. Through the years she held many offices with the following volunteer organizations: Winnipeg General Hospital; White Cross Guild; Convalescent Hospital; Crippled Children’s Society; Community Chest of Greater Winnipeg; Junior League of Winnipeg; International Junior League Association; Central Volunteer Bureau; Council of Social Agencies; Canadian Welfare Council; and the Canadian Centenary Committee.

With the outbreak of World War II, Margaret Konantz became even more involved with volunteer work. She organized the Patriotic Salvage Corps, Bundles for Britain and the Women's Volunteer Services in Western Canada. Because of her intense involvement with the war effort in Canada, she was chosen as one of a team of four women sent to Britain in 1944 by the Canadian Government to participate in the work of the Women's Voluntary Service.

Shortly afterwards, in 1946, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire for her outstanding contributions in this area. Deeply impressed with the W.V.S and the work it was doing in war-torn England, she wrote a lengthy report on the W.V.S. for the Canadian government on returning to Canada. This later became a handbook for the Women's Volunteer Service. After the death of her husband in 1954, Margaret Konantz embarked on a series of extensive tours to foreign countries. During her travels in South America she wrote descriptive letters rich in detail and local colour. In the winter of 1955 she was invited by Lady Stella Reading, Chairman of the W.V.S. in Britain, to visit England to observe and work with the W.V.S.

On her return, she decided to devote her energies to the United Nations to work in the interest of international peace. In accordance with her desire to study the activities of the United Nations at first hand, she spent three months in 1957 touring the Asian region of UNICEF, visiting the following countries: Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Following the tour, she traveled throughout Canada speaking to various organizations about the activities of the United Nations. In 1960 she became Chairman for the Manitoba Committee for Refugee Year, which raised $127,000 to help clear a refugee camp in West Germany. In 1961, she spent four months travelling throughout parts of Africa to observe UNICEF activities.

In 1962, she decided to become a candidate for federal office. Convinced that she could make a significant contribution, she later wrote, "Between the years 1956 and 1961 I had found that our image abroad had deteriorated to such an extent that I was anxious to do anything I could to serve my country." As a candidate for the Liberal Party, she lost her first election in 1962 by 392 votes, but won the following year in the riding of Winnipeg South. Her platform included the expansion of technical schools and of retraining programs for workers and the provision of additional financial aid for students. She wanted Winnipeg to participate more prominently on the national scene and to see Canada more active in international affairs. Konantz was the first female M.P. from Manitoba and one of the four women elected that year.

In 1963, she was appointed to the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations Third Committee on Social, Economic and Humanitarian Problems. In this capacity she helped formulate a declaration regarding the elimination of racial discrimination. Two years later, she was again chosen as a UN delegate. In August of 1963, as part of her parliamentary duties, she toured some of the reserves of Northern Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

She lost her bid to win a second term as M.P. for Winnipeg South in 1965, but looked on this defeat as an opportunity to devote more time to her United Nations activities. She was National Vice-Chairman for the Canadian Committee of UNICEF from 1959 to 1965, and in 1965 was elected National Chairman. In that capacity she represented Canada at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo, Norway, during which UNICEF was awarded a Nobel prize. She spent most of the next eighteen months travelling abroad. In 1965, she went to Guyana to participate in the twinning of their capital city with Ottawa as part of the ceremonies of the International Year of Co-operation. The following year she traveled to Turkey and Tunisia to study developing countries which had initiated self-help programs with UNICEF. She also visited England and Ireland. After returning, she again toured the country speaking to various groups and organizations in support of the United Nations. During a speaking engagement in the Maritime provinces, she suffered a heart attack and died in May 1967.


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Created by Shauna Sanders (March 1979). Revised by N. Courrier (October 2018).




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