Audrey Paterson

AudreyPatersonWeb.jpgAudrey Paterson was the visionary and catalyst for the Women’s Campaign School, Canada’s first non-partisan school to educate women about running for public office. The school has graduated over 400 women since 1999, many who have been elected.

Audrey was also the founding member and first president of the Western Businesswomen’s Association in the late 1970′s that continued for more than twenty years.

Audrey contributed to many groups and organizations that supported women and her community like Burns Bog, the Heritage Commission, Junior League and Foster Parents. Audrey raised five sons and one daughter. Her career endeavors included Journalist, Women’s Editor, Public Relations Firm Owner, Technical Book Store Owner and Operator and Antique Dealer.

Countless women in Vancouver remember her as a model to be emulated and admired. Canadian Women Voters Congress and the Women’s Campaign School are proud to remain as her legacy to this city and her country.

A Celebration of Audrey Paterson’s Life was held on May 29, 2010, at the Chapel of the Epiphany in Vancouver. Audrey passed on April 20, 2010.

The proceedings can be viewed here in several parts:

Part One: Charlene Brisson

Part Two: Rita Morin

Part Three: Sue Adams

Part Four: Hon. Penny Priddy

Vancouver Sun – Saturday, April 24, 2010

Audrey Paterson, founder of the Canadian Women Voters Congress, dies in Vancouver

National Post – Tuesday, April 27, 2010

She helped to open doors for women in Western Canada


April 23, 2010

Vancouver lost a woman of vision Tuesday April 20 when Audrey Paterson died. In her lifetime Audrey spearheaded two significant associations in Vancouver, which created a platform for women to advance in business and in politics.

In the 1970’s Audrey formed the “Western Businesswomen’s Association”, which flourished for more than 30 years, bringing together women from large companies with women who were entrepreneurs. They learned from each other and from the speakers that were offered and formed friendships that lasted for decades. During this period women went from being the “token” woman on the board to being full partners in many enterprises. Audrey knew that women were much more capable than they realized and that being with others of like mind would enable them to grow.

Then in the 1990’s Audrey had another vision; to see more women involved in politics. She was the catalyst that formed the “Canadian Women Voters Congress”, a non-partisan organization which encourages all women to become strong, effective voices at all levels of government. In 1999 the Congress launched the “Women’s Campaign School”, modeled on a school held at Yale University. The concept is to teach women how to run for office, whether as a candidate or a supporter. In the past decade the school has seen 412 graduates from that program, from all across Canada, as well as Serbia, Ukraine and India. Vancouver city councillors Suzanne Anton and Ellen Woodsworth are graduates, as are provincial MLAs Jane Thornthwaite and Mable Elmore, and Members of Parliament Alice Wong and Joyce Murray.

Audrey was the mother of five sons and most women in her position would have been involved in Boy Scouts. Audrey was not the “usual” woman. She was a tiny woman physically, always well dressed and impeccably groomed. One of her mentors who visited her in hospital recently said that she was still neat as a pin and wearing pearl earrings. Her cloak of dignity surrounded a strong spirit that was determined and never gave up until the job was done.

Countless women in Vancouver will remember her as a model to be emulated and admired. The Canadian Women Voters Congress and the Women’s Campaign School are proud to remain as her legacy to this city and her country.

Official Obituary from the family of Audrey Paterson

Audrey Zena Paterson
November 21, 1928 – April 20, 2010

With much sadness we say goodbye to our mother and role model.  Audrey was born November 21, 1928 in Calgary, Alberta as the second child of what was to become the big and boisterous Pipes family.  The family moved around western Canada from Manitoba to British Columbia in the early years, finally settling in Victoria, BC during the late 1930’s.  Mom was predeceased by her parents Vera and Richard Pipes, her brother Bill and previous husbands Richard Paterson and Bill Hambly.  Mom married Richard and went on to have a big and boisterous family of her own of 5 sons and one daughter; Shaun (Rita), Drew (Robin), Bob (Cathy), Paul (Kimberley), Donna and Cameron (Darci).   She is survived by her husband Ron Castner, all of her sons and daughter as well as 14 grandchildren and one great grandchild.  Mom was a driven woman and wanted to make a difference, so in addition to running the business of a busy family she took on many volunteer and business challenges.  She was an active member of the Junior League in her younger days.  She became interested in journalism and public relations after a stint as a reporter for the Delta Optimist which lead later to a short but award winning job as Women’s Editor for the then daily, Columbian newspaper.  She took on many entrepreneurial challenges including various public relations operations in Alberta and British Columbia before settling back in Vancouver.  She then started the only technical book store (at the time) west of Toronto – Vancouver Tech Books.

Mom was a practical feminist, recognizing the real needs of women to move forward in this world in business and politics.  During her business career in Vancouver she saw a need for women to develop problem solving networks and advocacy so took action, founding the Western Business Women’s Association.  Later she founded the Canadian Women Voters Congress and the Women’s Campaign School which operates out of Simon Fraser University to help women learn to run for office.

We are extremely proud of her many accomplishments in business while raising a big family, especially given that she only had a high school education.  Mom was an inspiration to many young women in our family.  Her diminutive size masked a driven and powerful woman.  We will miss her greatly.

A small private family gathering will be held on Saturday May 8th to celebrate her life.

The board of directors of the Canadian Women Voters Congress extends thanks to the family of Audrey Paterson for permission to publish the obitiuary notice and photo.

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  • commented 2016-11-28 16:14:33 -0800
    I worked with Audrey in both of the organizations she founded and have great respect for her abilities and vision. The Congress and Campaign School remain as relevant mementos of her life.
    Bernice Davidson