Canadian Union of Public Employees
Born in Toronto, Grace (Fulcher) Hartman began working for wages as a seamstreet in a carpet factory during the Great Depression. She was just sixteen years old at the time but would take secretarial courses and participated in the Young Communist League. By 1941, she was hired by the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers and helped with organizing at General Electric and Westinghouse. In 1954, she took a job as a clerk typist for the municipality of North York and soon was elected to the executive of the National Union of Public Employees local. By the early 1960s, Grace was president of that union’s Toronto District Council and started work as secretary of the Ontario Region. In 1963, she was elected Ontario vice-president of the newly merged Canadian Union of Public Employees, becoming its secretary-treasurer four years later. She chaired the OFL’s Women’s Committee in 1965 and served on an advisory committee to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.
In 1974, Hartman was elected president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. The next year, she was elected CUPE president – the first woman in Canada to reach such a position in the labour movement. In 1981 she was jailed for thirty days for defying a Supreme Court order to end an illegal strike of Ontario hospital workers. Before her retirement in 1983, she had fought for many issues of direct concern to women, including pay equity, child care, maternity leave, and abortion.