June Rowlands 1924 - 2017

Activist and Leader. Woman of Many Firsts

June Rowlands (née Pendock) was born in Saint-Laurent, Montreal. She grew up in Toronto and attended both Lawrence Park Collegiate and the University of Toronto. While working as a service representative with Bell Canada she met Harry Rowlands (1922-1989) whom she married in 1947, and together they had five children.

For a period of four decades she served the people of Toronto and became known as the woman of many firsts.

  • First woman to hold the office of Mayor of Toronto, Ontario (60th Mayor)
  • First woman to head the Toronto Transit Commission
  • First woman to head the Metropolitan Toronto Police Commission
  • First woman to serve as the city’s budget chief during her second time on Council

June Rowlands long career in municipal politics began when she was elected to City Council in 1976. She was on many boards. In the 1970’s she served with Association of Women Electors, and National Council on Welfare. She was President of Metro Family Services Association and served on the board of directors of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation and was also Research Director for the Liberal Caucus at Queens’ Park.

Throughout her political career June fought for affordable housing, preserving historical neighbourhoods and ravines and holding down property taxes. She was an advocate for the elderly, the developmentally challenged, the poor, and victims of domestic violence.

When elected Toronto’s first female Mayor in 1991, she served until 1994. She ran against Jack Layton (who was a City Councillor at the time) and won with 58 per cent of the vote. She retired from politics in 1994, after Barbara Hall won.

June’s family described her character as tenacious, an outspoken advocate, one willing to express unpopular opinions, and one not afraid to stare down political foes.

Besides being a woman of many firsts, June Rowlands will be remembered for her youthful radiance and energy. She was an invaluable, first-rate politician, a true force of nature and indeed a trailblazer.

“I get things done,” said hardworking, straight-shooting June Rowlands (as told to the Toronto Star newspaper).

In 2004, Davisville Park was renamed June Rowlands Park. As she was still living at the time, this was truly a special honour and tribute.

In the late 1970s and part of the 1980s, June Rowlands lived on Sumach Street in Cabbagetown. She also lived on Wellesley Street East from 1995 to 2017.

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