Celebrating the Achievements of Women in Niagara Centre
"Don't get angry, get political, get involved"
‘We help ourselves by helping others."
On Sunday, March 1st, 2020, the Niagara Centre NDP was proud to host its International Women's Day event at the Holy Trinity Church in Welland. As part of the festivities, the executive was excited to welcome Peggy Nash, former NDP MP for Parkdale-High Park, as the event's keynote speaker where she discussed her experience in politics and activism. Peggy Nash discussed her experiences as a woman in politics and urged young people to continue organising. At the event, the Niagara Centre NDP honoured Helen Santek and Melva Snowling as the first inductees to the Niagara Centre Women's Honour Roll for their outstanding advocacy work.
2020 Inductees to the Women's Honour Roll
Helen Santek was born and raised in Thorold, of Macedonian immigrant parents. Her father, Alexander, who owned a grocery store called “The International” was well known for his community mindedness, particularly during the depression years when he extended credit to customers who were unable to afford groceries.
During her adolescent years, Helen was energetic and self-reliant. Long before she drove a car, she had no trouble getting places on her bicycle, whether it be Niagara Falls, St. Catharines or Welland, the distance didn’t deter her. Along with physical stamina and endurance, she had an inner strength and appreciation for the arts that came across in her musical interests. She took voice lessons and had a beautiful singing voice. Upon completing her studies at Thorold High, she was employed in the offices of McKinnon Industries (that would later become General Motors) until she married Vladimir, moved to Welland and worked for many years in the storehouse at Page Hersey. Helen was known as an intelligent, self taught woman who read extensively and among other things was a talented seamstress.
Politics was her passion and she first became active canvassing door-to-door for Medicare with Mel Swart, who would become Welland’s first NDP Member of Provincial Parliament. She continued to be a proud member of the NDP throughout her life, working on every election campaign. She enjoyed talking to people and was a natural canvasser who put people at ease as she introduced herself, listened carefully to the concerns that she heard and discussed the issues and proposals of her party. She canvassed confidently, not taking offence at opposing views; nothing fazed her or undermined her optimism.
Her commitment to social justice extended to her involvement in numerous organizations and causes. She was a member of the Council of Canadians, the Ontario Health Coalition, the Canada-Cuba Friendship Association; a Board member of Women’s Place, Canal View Homes and the development Board of Woodrose Housing Co-operative; she protested the Invasion of Iraq and the oppression of Palestinians.
As a mother, her love for her family was boundless and she took immense pleasure in any and all achievements of her children and grandchildren. She instilled her values in them and gave them freedom and encouragement to pursue their goals in life.
Helen will long be remembered and respected for her sincere caring nature, her competence, her passionate pursuit of social justice and her dedication to the principles of social democracy.