Trail blazing B.C. politician Grace McCarthy dies
Grace McCarthy, a former Social Credit cabinet minister in British Columbia who blazed a trail for women in politics and business, has died. She was 89.
A statement issued by her family says McCarthy died peacefully at her Vancouver home surrounded by her family Wednesday night after a lengthy battle with a brain tumour.
McCarthy began her career in the flower business in the mid1940s, when she opened her first store and later expanded her business to several stores.
The statement says at the age of 17, McCarthy cashed in a $50 war bond and opened her own flower shop in Vancouver, Grayce Florists, which she developed into five retail locations across the city.
Called “Amazing Grace’’ by her fellow politicians, McCarthy entered the political arena in 1966 after serving as an elected Vancouver park board representative.
She credited her good friend Jimmy Pattison, who would later become a billionaire businessman, with helping her win an election in 1975 after he offered one of his employees as a volunteer to run McCarthy’s campaign.
As a lone woman in the world of politics, McCarthy took on the challenge of raising a family and having a career decades before work-life balance became an issue for women.
In a November 2008 interview with The Canadian Press, McCarthy said that long before air travel became the norm for cabinet ministers heading from Vancouver to Victoria, she spent years taking the ferry to B.C.’s capital city on Monday mornings and returning on Friday afternoons.
McCarthy said that while she was vastly outnumbered by all the men in government, she never felt uncomfortable in her pioneering role.
“To walk into a room full of men, it was an advantage,’’ she said, adding that she brought her negotiating skills around family and community to the table and provided a different perspective.
“What you said was meaningful.’’
She said her husband, Ray McCarthy, was accustomed to her being an independent business owner after two children came along, and he fully supported her political aspirations.