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Courtesy of Lorie Shekter-Wolfson
Lorie Shekter-Wolfson.

A Woman’s Place

Dorothy Shekter was often told she didn't belong at university. But she persevered -- and did some amazing things as a social worker

With her siblings and father, Lorie created the Dorothy Shekter Scholarship in honour of her mother. The scholarship is awarded to students in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work focusing on health and mental health.

“My mother earned a BA in economics from McMaster University in the ­1930s. She was one of about ­10 women in her class. Her professors often asked her what she was doing in school and then told her she should vacate her seat for a man. But she persevered and graduated with honours.

Mom didn’t know what she wanted to do after receiving her degree, but she knew she enjoyed working with people. Continuing her education did not seem to be an option. Her family had no money – she had five brothers and her father had died.

On a whim, she applied for the Rabbi Brickner Scholarship, offered by the Faculty of Social Work at U of T. She was accepted and moved to Toronto, where she stayed with a relative. There was no way she could have done this without the scholarship. It set her on a path that she never would have followed otherwise – and she did some amazing things during her career as a social worker. After she had kids, she helped Jewish refugees arriving in Hamilton after the war to find jobs, and later did frontline work with the Hamilton branch of the Addiction and Drug Research Foundation, where she held the position of interim director for a time. She was also involved with the development of the province’s first family court clinic.

Creating a scholarship in her name was a way of honouring her legacy. I think she would have been very proud of it.”

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