Extraordinary Women::Shirley Douglas
I think to live your life, you have to live it and, if you see something that offends you morally or any other way, you have to follow that and take it up.
A native of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Shirley Douglas worked with directors including Stanley Kubrick ("Lolita") and David Cronenberg ("Dead Ringers"), and she won a Gemini Award for her performance in the 1999 TV film “Shadow Lake.”
She tirelessly supported a variety of causes throughout her life, including the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers and the fight to save Canada's public health care, pioneered by her politician father.
In 1965, Douglas married Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, with whom she had two children before they divorced — twins Rachel, a production manager, and Kiefer, who became a film and TV star in his own right. Douglas had another son, Thomas, from a previous marriage.
Born on April 2, 1934, Douglas showed an early interest in the arts as well as politics as she journeyed on the campaign trail with her father, who became premier of Saskatchewan, a national leader in the New Democratic Party and a socialist icon.
She attended the Banff School of Fine Arts and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in England, where she acted in theater and TV and participated in anti-nuclear marches.
In the ’60s and ’70s, while living in California, Douglas campaigned against the Vietnam War and protested for various causes. She helped to establish a fundraising group called Friends of the Black Panthers. Her support for the group brought controversy — she was refused a U.S. work permit and charged in 1969 with conspiracy to possess unregistered explosives. The courts eventually dismissed the case and exonerated her. She also was a co-founder of the first chapter in Canada of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament.
Douglas, though, was foremost a champion for Canada's medicare system. She would speak of the importance of a universal health care system at virtually any opportunity and lobbied government officials.
- The Associated Press
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