Hardworking, pro active feminist passes on

Joyce Hayden was legally blind, but she saw the community better than most people. The tireless social advocate died in Whitehorse on Saturday at the age of 77. She leaves behind a legacy few can match. She helped found the

Joyce Hayden was legally blind, but she saw the community better than most people.

The tireless social advocate died in Whitehorse on Saturday at the age of 77.

She leaves behind a legacy few can match.

She helped found the Whitehorse transit system, the Yukon New Democratic Party and the Status of Women Council in the mid-1970s, to name but a few non-profit groups she was actively involved with at the time.

She sat in the Yukon legislature, first as a backbencher and later as a cabinet minister, from 1989 to 1992.

She wrote several books on the history of women in the Yukon, most notably Yukon’s Women of Power: Political Pioneers in a Northern Canadian Colony.

And she did much of this while legally blind.

Hayden rarely dwelled on her disability. Indeed, for many years few knew about it.

“I guess I was a great admirer,” said Audrey McLaughlin, Yukon’s MP from 1987 to 1997. “She did so many things with a pretty big handicap.

“It wasn’t something very obvious, and it wasn’t something she talked about,” McLaughlin said of Hayden’s failing vision.

Hayden learned to recognize friends by the way they walked, long after their faces became blurred by her deteriorating vision, recalls her husband of 60 years, Earle.

Hayden was born in her grandparents’ log farmhouse in Birch Lake, Saskatchewan. She met Earle at a Saskatchewan country dance in 1948. A year later they married during the year’s worst winter blizzard.

And, in 1953, the couple headed to Whitehorse in a 1949 Dodge pickup, following the promise of plenty of work.

Work was certainly one thing Hayden never shied from. Over her life she sat on the boards of more than 40 organizations.

Among them was the Yukon Women’s Mini-Bus Society, which brought mass transit to Whitehorse in 1975. Prior to that, women were often stranded at home during much of the cold, dark winter months, Hayden wrote in Whitehorse Transit, A Brief Look Back.

So the Yukon’s Status of Women Council, established in 1973, began to push for city council to start a bus service.

When the mayor snubbed the request, they secured an $80,000 grant from the federal government to purchase a fleet of boxy Fleury buses and run a transit system themselves.

She was a committed New Democrat for most of her life. In 1989, Hayden ran in the territorial election and was elected. Mid-term, she was appointed to cabinet and became responsible for Health and Social Services, Juvenile Justice and the Yukon Housing Corporation.

In 2003, Hayden received a Governor General’s award in commemoration of the Persons Case.

The award, named after the 1929 legal decision that allowed women to sit in the Canadian Senate, honours women who have made outstanding contributions to quality of life of women in Canada.

Focusing solely on Hayden’s notable political achievements overlooks much of the work she did to help women, said McLaughlin.

For example, she ran the Whitehorse YWCA in the early 1970s, which was one of the few organizations to offer child care services. Hayden was also devoted to Girl Guides.

The Haydens moved south in 1976, first to Vernon, BC, and later to Masset, BC. But the pull of the North proved too strong and they returned to Whitehorse in 1987.

Hayden is survived by her husband, three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service has yet to be announced.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Most Read