Famous Brantfordians

 

Nestled in Armouries Gore park is Brantford’s Prominence Point- you may call it Brantford’s Walk of Fame. Originally a collection of memorial plaques located on several downtown streets, the idea grew into a more permanent place of reflection. Completed in 2013, now residents can spend time walking through the garden and learning about fellow Brantfordians who have made an outstanding contribution to the community or achieved significant recognition in their field. 

While some names are quite familiar, such as Wayne and Walter Gretzky, Phil Hartman, and Alexander Graham Bell, there are a few of the 24 inductees that I wanted to learn more about.

Pauline Johnson

Born in 1861 at the Six Nations reserve at her family’s estate, Chiefswood, to parents of both Mohawk and European descent. She attended Brantford Central Collegiate (Brantford Collegiate Institute) and spent most of her 20s and 30s writing poetry and performing plays to make a living and support her widowed mother. When asked to read a poem she had written for Joseph Brant at a ceremony in 1886 unveiling a statue, she was too shy, so it was read by William Cockshutt. She moved to Vancouver in 1909 after retiring from the stage but continued to write. She died in 1913 and is buried near Siwash Rock, the subject of one of her stories, in Stanley Park.

Summerhays Brothers

Summerhays is a well-known name in Brantford and throughout the boxing community.  Brothers John, Terry, and Gary grew up on Pearl St and are local boxing legends. They boxed out of Brantford Branch 90 Legion Boxing Club- John and Gary were both Canadian Lightweight Champions and Terry was a champion welterweight.  Between the three of them, they boxed against the likes of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Clyde Gray, and Michael Spinks. The brothers once boxed at Madison Square Gardens, all in the same night. The brothers put Brantford on the boxing map during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. All three brothers turned professional on April 20, 1970, in Windsor, Ontario. Terry was quoted as saying “We were in it together, as brothers.

Dr. Emily Stowe

Emily Stowe taught school in Brantford and Mount Pleasant and became the first woman to be a principal at a school in (what was then Upper) Canada. In 1865 she applied to medical school in Toronto, but was turned down for being a woman - it was the second school to refuse her entry based on her gender. She moved to New York and enrolled in medical school. In 1867, she earned her degree and became the first female to practicing homeopathic medicine in Toronto, the highest medical degree a woman at that time could earn. What Dr. Stowe is maybe less known for, but possibly more influential is her work with the women’s suffrage movement. She founded Canada’s first suffrage group and helped to obtain equal rights for women when it came to voting and improved working conditions, and lead the way for the next generation of female doctors.