Denison, Flora MacDonald

Flora MacDonald Denison, née Merrill, feminist, journalist, businesswoman (b in N Hastings County, Ont 20? Feb 1867; d at Toronto 23 May 1921). Denison, who combined running a successful Toronto dressmaking business with a writing career, was active in the suffrage movement in Toronto from 1906. Her views on religion, marriage, birth control and social class, expressed through her regular 1909-13 column in the Toronto Sunday World, were more radical than those of most Canadian suffragists. President of the Canadian Suffrage Association 1911-14, she was forced to resign because of her support for the English militant suffragettes.

At the outbreak of WWI, Denison initially opposed the conflict, and while she did not sustain an unequivocal antiwar position throughout the war years, WWI deepened her commitment to thoroughgoing social and spiritual reformation. She expressed this commitment first through the Canadian Whitmanite movement, a social and spiritual movement that owed its inspiration to the American poet Walt Whitman. At her country property, Bon Echo, she created a retreat dedicated to Whitmanite ideals, and beginning in 1916 she published the Whitmanite magazine the Sunset of Bon Echo. Later she became a theosophist, and in the years just before her death she participated in the Theosophist Social Reconstruction League.