The Militant Mothers of Raymur were a group of women who blockaded the railway tracks near their homes, starting on January 6, 1971. They were concerned for the safety of the children who needed to cross the railway tracks to attend school at Admiral Seymour Elementary in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The tracks were owned by Burlington Northern Railway and were used mainly by Canadian National Railways to move cars between its yard and the Vancouver waterfront. About 400 children crossed the tracks to and from school every day.
The women had been advocating for a safe crossing for several months, had circulated a petition and attended many meetings, with no results. They asked the train company not to run trains while children were travelling to and from school. They were angry that the safety of their children was not a priority and worried that a child would be hurt by the trains. They saw their children climbing between the slow-moving trains to cross the tracks. The Raymur Place Social Housing Project (now Stamps Place), where many of the families lived, is a social housing project in a poor neighbourhood and not considered a priority by those in power.
Finally, they set up camp on the railway tracks near Pender and Raymur, blocking train traffic. They had signs that read “Children vs. Profit” and “Petitions Don’t Work.” The mothers included Judith Stainsby, Carolyn Jerome (sister of Olympians Harry and Valerie Jerome), Alice Hamilton (mother of activist Jamie Lee Hamilton), Jean Amos, Toni Cowlishaw, Ollie Strauman, Barbara Burnet, Joan Morelli, Sheila Turgeon, Muggs Sigurgeirson, Babs Cain, Dorothy Cox, Liisa Atva (a teenager at the time) and others.
Local politicians and the train companies were forced to find a solution. Train officials promised to stop running trains during the children’s crossing time. City officials promised to build a pedestrian overpass.
Since the women were aware that promises made are not always fulfilled, they intermittently blocked the tracks until construction began. By Sept 1971, the overpass was built.
The “Militant Mothers of Raymur” also created the Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre as a food sharing co-operative and place for their children to play.
In 2014, a theatrical musical produced by Vancouver’s Theatre In the Raw, titled The Raymur Mothers by Bob Sarti, music by Bill Sample & directed by Jay Hamburger tells the tale of these women and their blockade. It was 10 performance run at the Russian Hall/ the Strathcona neighbourhood, part of a three part musical series entitled Untold Stories of Vancouver also a Theatre In the Raw project.
There is a mosaic on the sidewalk at Campbell and Keefer streets that says “The Militant Mothers of Raymur” and depicts women standing on train tracks in front of a train.
There is a mural, led by artist Richard Tetrault, which is painted on a wall on the Adanac bicycle route in Vancouver.
The women were photographed by Gordon Sedawie.
- Militant Mothers of Raymur documentary by Black Strathcona
- “Militant Mothers of Raymur” March 24, 1971 PROVINCE page 29
- “Militant Mothers Win” Winnipeg Free Press Tuesday, January 12, 1971 > Page 28
- “Vancouver mothers’ battle for kids’ safety takes centre stage” By ERIKA THORKELSON, The Vancouver Sun, October 27, 2014, CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.
- “Mothers who made a difference” Daphne Bramham Vancouver Sun July 25, 2011, CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.
- “Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre – We are all Ray-Cam”. Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre.
- “Strathcona: A sense of community” Daphne Bramham Vancouver Sun July 21, 2011, CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.
- “Muralist turns Vancouver into open-air gallery” Tom Hawthorn, The Globe and Mail Victoria Tuesday, Mar. 08 2011
- “March 24, 1971: The Militant Mothers of Raymur camp out on the railway tracks in the 1000-block of East Pender. The mothers were worried children would be hurt crossing the tracks en route to Seymour School. Photo: Gordon Sedawie”.