Let’s put Lotta on a Stamp!

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Do you remember those TV and radio commercials in the 1950s, 60s and 70s? 

You know, the ones with that tiny woman in a uniform with her Czech accent:

“This is Lotta Hitschmanova. Please give generously to the Unitarian Service Committee, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4!”

If you do remember Lotta, then I encourage you to sign this petition, and to share any stories or reminiscences you may have about Lotta.

I have launched this petition on March 8 (International Women’s Day) and I will keep it open until June 20 (World Refugee Day), when the results of this petition will be attached to a formal application I will submit to the Stamp Advisory Committee at Canada Post.

Why put Lotta on a commemorative stamp? 

Here are just a few of the reasons I feel Lotta should be honoured in this way (please add your own):

  1. She was a courageous pioneering woman, working in a man's world, who became the most recognizable woman in Canada in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
  2. To the degree that Canada is a tolerant, compassionate and caring society today, those seeds were planted by Lotta Hitschmanova in every corner of the country.
  3. Lotta's story is one of the most unique and compelling in the whole world: a WWII refugee to Canada, she arrived in 1942 with an unpronounceable name, feeling completely lost, and yet went on to become a beloved and celebrated humanitarian, and literally changed the course of social history in her adopted country.
  4. To many, Ottawa is known as the centre of Canadian power and politics. Lotta single-handedly changed this perception, and for several generations of Canadians, Ottawa became a centre for compassion and caring for people in need around the world. For this reason, 56 Sparks Street has become perhaps the most famous address in the country, and one of Canada's "must see" pilgrimage sites.

Thank you for supporting this petition, and for sharing your own thoughts about what Lotta meant to you and to our society.

NB: Over the coming 3 months, I will be posting some of the comments I receive on the blog that I have created in honour of Lotta: lotta56sparks.ca.


This petition is my own idea, for which I take full responsibility, but I do wish to make a few acknowledgements:

  1. The greatest debt of all goes to Clyde Sanger, whose biography "Lotta: the Unitarian Service Committee" story is required reading for anyone who would like to learn more about this remarkable woman's life. 
  2. For 23 years, I worked for the organization that Lotta founded, USC Canada, and had the unique privilege of meeting hundreds of Canadians across the country who were part of "Lotta's story", and it is their inspiration that led me to create the lotta56sparks.ca blog in her honour.
  3. After 35 years in the international development field, for the past 3 years, I have volunteered and worked with the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO), which has opened my eyes even more to what Lotta must have experienced in those early days of struggling to find her place in a new society.
  4. And thanks to Globe and Mail journalist Tu Thanh Ha who got curious about who Lotta Hitschmanova was, and who "sparked" me to finally put my "Lotta on a stamp" idea into action.

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