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Eileen E. Dailly

Awarded Status of Freeman: February 23, 1987 (Presentation Made April 3, 1987)

Freemen - Eileen Dailly

Eileen Elizabeth Dailly (nee Gilmore) holds the distinction of being the first woman to be named a Freeman of Burnaby – an honour that seems particularly appropriate for a woman who dedicated more than forty years of her life to serving the public in an effort to bring about positive change for all members of the community.

Eileen was born in Vancouver on February 15, 1926 and her political career began earlier than most; in fact, Elizabeth was an active member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (a left-wing political organization) a full three years before she reached the age of majority and could even vote in this country. This early initiation into the world of politics gave Eileen a wealth of experience and education she would later call upon when she took public office.

After graduating from the Normal School in Vancouver, Eileen became a teacher and in 1947 she moved to Burnaby and taught until 1955 at Kitchener and Inman Avenue Schools. Having married in 1951, Eileen decided to stop teaching in 1956 when she began to raise her young family. This did not prevent her from participating in the community and in 1956 she was elected as a School Trustee for the Burnaby School Board. She went on to win re-election for four additional terms, serving as Chairperson for three of those terms.

In 1966, NDP organizers encouraged Eileen to run for provincial office in the newly created constituency of Burnaby North. Not only did she win the seat in 1966, but she went on to be re-elected in 1972, 1975, 1979 and 1983. From 1966 until 1972, Eileen served as the NDP’s “shadow critic” of education and when the NDP was elected to form the government in 1972 under Premier Dave Barrett, she was appointed as the Minister of Education. Eileen was the second woman to be named Minister of Education and she went on to become the first to serve as Deputy Premier.

Eileen’s list of accomplishments while in office is long, but among the highlights are the introduction of mandatory kindergartens in the province, the abolishment of corporal punishment in BC schools, and the creation of the first Native School District. Her contributions were so highly regarded that even when the NDP was defeated in 1975, Eileen still won re-election and remained the MLA for Burnaby North until she retired in 1986.

After her retirement, Eileen remained an active participant in community affairs as she went on to host a seniors’ program on the local cable television network and served on the executive of the provincial Retired MLAs Association.

In 1987, Eileen was recognized for her life of public service when she received Burnaby’s highest honour by being named a Freeman of the municipality.

Eileen Dailly died on January 17, 2011.

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