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passionate campaigner for choice Barbara Cadbury

July 9, 2002

We share the planet with 6-billion people. Amazing! The population of the developed world (1.2 billion plus) of which Canada is a part, is not expected to change much over the next 50 years. The population of other regions is expected to rise steadily – 48 countries classified by the United Nations as the least developed will see the most rapid growth. Problems of poverty, population, environmental degradation and development are undoubtedly complex, but we know that fundamental things have to be done.

At the heart of reducing poverty is improving the status of women. Women are the key to development. The poverty gap cannot be closed without closing the gender gap.

In remarks for World Population Day, July 11, 2002, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the UN Population Fund stated:

The war on poverty will not be won unless we direct more resources to women and reproductive health. Developing countries that have invested in health and education, enabling women to make their own fertility choices, have registered faster economic growth than those that have not. When couples can choose the number, timing and spacing of their children, they are better able to ensure there are enough resources for each family member to prosper and thrive. Today the greatest deficits in access to health services can be found in the poorest segments of the population. By channeling resources to reproductive health care [maternal health care, reproductive health services, family planning], we can save lives, stabilize population growth, slow the spread of AIDS, reduce poverty and foster gender equality.

There are many demands on our volunteer time and money. Helping women makes a difference to the world. Barbara Cadbury knew that. She and her husband, George, were pioneers in the family planning movement in Canada and around the world. Here is Barbara’s story, told in a press release by the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada at the time of her death at the age of 91 in May, 2001.

Ottawa May 15, 2001

Barbara Cadbury, a tireless crusader for legalized birth control in the 1960s and the founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada (PPFC), died at the age of 91 in Oakville, Ontario.

“Canada and the world have lost a great treasure,” said PPFC president Louise Hanvey. “Barbara and her late husband George led the campaign to legalize birth control in Canada throughout the 1960s. That, plus their work all over the world has had a profound impact on the lives of millions of women and their families.”

Born in England, Ms. Cadbury became, at age 24, the youngest elected borough councillor for the City of London. Her work in the slums convinced her of the importance of family planning, where she actively promoted birth control and family planning.

Marriage and a young family didn’t slow Barbara down. After moving to Canada in 1940 with George and their two daughters, the family settled in Regina, Saskatchewan, where Barbara became actively involved in the Saskatchewan Cooperative Movement. By 1947 she had become the first woman elected to a cooperative board in western Canada. In 1951, she left her duties as a board member of the Cooperative Union of Saskatchewan to work with birth control advocate Margaret Sanger as editor of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America magazine, Round the World News of Population and Birth Control.

In 1954, under the auspices of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Barbara and George helped to organize the Family Planning Association of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, including convincing the government to help fund the organization. A year later, the Cadburys assisted in the founding of the Family Planning Association of Jamaica, with Barbara serving as its president in 1958. In 1960, the IPPF appointed both Barbara and George as special representatives of the president and governing body. They traveled throughout Asia to promote family planning.

Returning to Canada, Barbara organized the Planned Parenthood Association of Toronto in 1961 with a group of church leaders and prominent doctors. She was its president from 1963-65. In 1963, she founded the Family Planning Federation of Canada, now known as PPFC. In 1969, after years of effort, the section of the Criminal Code making it illegal to advertise or sell birth control was finally removed. By 1971, thanks to Barbara’s continuing efforts, the first national conference on family planning was held.

“Barbara Cadbury has had an impact on women’s health in Canada and throughout the world that will likely never be adequately measured,” said Bonnie Johnson, executive director of PPFC. “She was a visionary who understood that women’s health is a key to healthy societies. She was also a catalyst who brought people together to gain support for family planning. She will be greatly missed but her contributions have left a lasting legacy for generations to come.”

In 1975, Planned Parenthood of Toronto honoured their founder by opening the Barbara Cadbury Library. In 1981, she received the Governor General’s Persons Award, commemorating her pioneering work in family planning. In 1982, Barbara and George were honoured by the American Public Health Association in recognition of their continuous and significant contributions to the field of international family planning. In 1982, Barbara received the Toronto YWCA Women of Distinction Award. In 1990, Barbara and George were made members of the Order of Canada in recognition of their lifelong dedication to improving family planning in Canada and throughout the world.

more to consider

Amazing things can be done by small groups of people who are motivated, focused and determined. Barbara Cadbury did much of her work for women before the second wave of the women's movement that started in the late 1960s. You do not have to be an activist in a movement to make change.

This feature was first published on’s predecessor site CoolWomen.


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