Funds for Women Candidates
The Olga Blondheim Fund (provincial candidates)
Recognizing that raising money for a campaign is often difficult for women the New Democrat Women's Candidate Fund was announced on March 6, 1986. The fund was renamed to honour Olga Blondheim after her death in 1987. Many of the Women's Caucus activities relate to raising money for this fund. Olga Blondheim was a woman of deep social conscience, personal courage and integrity; a socialist and a New Democrat. Her gender and her party affiliation helped her define a vision of a just and equal society. See below for more about Olga Blondheim.
The Agnes McPhail Fund (federal candidates)
The Agnes McPhail Fund helps women candidates defay expenses associated with running a federal campaign. The name of the fund recognizes Agnes McPhail's accomplishments: she was elected in York East in 1921 and was the first and only woman in the House of Commons for 14 years. During her elected term she brought the inhumane conditions of Canadian prisons to public view and with determination and persistence achieved prison reform in Canada.
Donations for this fund should be sent directly to the federal party.
Agnes Macphail Fund, Canada's NDP
Donations to both funds are tax deductible.
Olga’s personal history follows. It can’t convey her warm and wonderful personality but we hope it will help explain why we have named the Alberta Women’s Election Fund in her honour
Olga Tyzuk was born of Ukrainian parents on February 3, 1921 in
It was the beginning of the Depression and Olga’s memories of this difficult time remained vivid to her and undoubtedly helped to shape her outlook on life. She became the interpreter for her family, helping them cope with a new country, a strange language and a different culture.
Olga’s parents had a great influence on her life. They had a deep belief in social responsibility and a commitment to education – for daughters as well as sons.
During this time Olga became aware of a need for a supportive teachers’ association. Typically, she became involved in the formation of the A.T.A.
While Olga was teaching at Calmar she met George Blondheim who owned and operated the local insurance agency as well as managing the grain elevator. They were married in 1946 when Olga was 25 and George 32.
In 1949 Nina, the first of five children, was born. The Blondheims moved to
Olga’s community involvement during those years centered around Avonmore United Church where she was a member of the choir for over 20 years as well as being a board member; the Canadian Girls in Training, Donnan Home and School Association, 20 year association with the Heart Fund. She was a life member of the Skyline Hikers.
In the early 1960s George’s health began to fail. With his inability to work, finances quickly deteriorated. In 1966 George died leaving Olga with virtually no financial assets and five children to raise. She knew she could support her family by teaching but now a university degree was required. Olga’s solution to the problem of how to finance the training, was to take out a student loan and rely on social assistance – an experience she never forgot. After Olga completed her degree the
Olga earned her Bachelor of Education degree in 1970 with a major in music. Perhaps as important, the university experience provided her with social and political stimulation. When she returned to full-time teaching Olga began her political involvement with the New Democrats.
While attending university Olga not only cared for her family but opened her home to foster children and other stray kids – there was always room for one more. She used to joke about writing a book called How to
Olga’s first teaching job was at
When her children were older and independent and money was in greater supply, Olga was able to travel: to the Banfield Marine Station on the west side of Vancouver Island; to Russia, meeting relatives and seeing her home village again; to Hawaii, Cuba and the Queen Charlottes.
Olga retired in 1986. Tragically, two weeks before she was to retire she was diagnosed as having cancer. She fought this battle as she fought all the others, with dignity and courage.
Olga joined the New Democratic Party in 1967 and became involved with the Avonmore executive. In 1979, at the age of 58, she was talked into becoming the candidate by Ed Matwichuk. The campaign was run on a shoestring; there was one leaflet in addition to the central one, and the campaign office was in Betty Matwichuk’s basement. For the first time, the New Democrats won a poll in Avonmore and doubled their popular vote.
Grant Notley and Olga had great respect for each other. Olga regarded Grant as the backbone and philosopher of the party; and he relied on her to tell him when his language got too academic. Grant often said that he used Olga as a barometer in the audience. If Olga started drifting off he knew it was time to wrap up his speech.
Olga was always ready to help the party. She acted in party commercials, worked on campaigns, took part in fundraisers and other party functions. She was strongly committed to women’s causes. This led her to become a founding member of the Committee on Human Resources, the forerunner of the Women’s Caucus. She was elected as the Participation of Women (POW) representative from 1979-81 and concurrently served on the provincial executive and was a federal council member.
In 1987 Olga was nominated for the YWCA Tribute to Women award in the political category for her tireless commitment to feminist issues with the New Democrats.
Olga died on October 17, 1987. She was a devoted member of our party; a committed feminist, a socialist, a tireless worker, a role model, a loyal friend and a feisty woman. We hope that Olga’s vision and spirit will encourage more women to accept the challenge to run as candidates for the New Democrats.
-adapted from the narrative by Marissa Blondheim for a video of still pictures of Olga’s life. Marissa died in a car accident December 22, 1990.