Partner Charlotte Whitton, buried together
Thompson Hill Cemetery, Thompson Hill, ON K7V 3Z4, Canada
Charlotte Whitton never married, but lived for years with her partner, Margaret Grier (1892 – December 9, 1947). Her relationship with Grier was not widespread public knowledge until 1999, 24 years after Whitton's death, when the National Archives of Canada publicly released the last of her personal papers, including many intimate personal letters between Whitton and Grier. The release of these papers sparked much debate in the Canadian media about whether Whitton and Grier's relationship could be characterized as lesbian, or merely as an emotionally intimate friendship between two unmarried women.
The two women met in Toronto, where they were both residents at the Kappa Alpha Theta Society house on the campus of the University of Toronto. Whitton accepted a position in 1918 as assistant secretary with the Social Service Council Of Canada, and Grier worked with the juvenile court, the Big Sister’s Association and the Girl Guides.
In Grier, Whitton had found a soulmate, even though the two had very diverse natures. Grier was shy, fair and quiet, with delicate features and a calm spirit. Whitton, younger by four years, was considered intimidating, confrontational, ambitious and egotistical.
In 1922, they moved to Ottawa together in order to advance Whitton’s career. They set up house and lived in a “Bostonian Marriage” type of relationship.
Whitton often wrote poetry to Grier.
So softly your tired head would lie
With gentle heaviness upon my breast
And knowing but each others’ arms
Desiring nothing more we two would rest
They owned a cottage together on McGregor Lake and escaped many a humid Ottawa summer weekend there. One letter written by Grier to Whitton while she was away on business – which was often – seems to sum up the nature of their relationship: “Just two nights gone and I’m so lonesome I could cry whenever I stop to think for a minute – Oh Lawrie, dear, I’m just about crazy all the time you are away from me.”
Despite her strong views on women’s equality, Whitton was a strong social conservative and did not support making divorce easier. She did believe in and fought for equal pay and equal opportunities for women in the public and private sector. However, she did not believe in married women working outside of the home and held very conservative views on abortion and divorce. Her views on sexuality have been described as “prudish.” I personally feel she over compensated for being a lesbian, but that is just based on my own personal thoughts.
Grier died in 1947 and is buried at Thompson Hill Cemetery, Thompson Hill, Horton, Ontario, Canada. In 1975 Whitton was buried alongside her.
Whitton's relationship with Grier was dramatized in a play called Molly's Veil written by playwright Sharon Bajer. Bajer was inspired to write the play after reading letters written between Whitton and Grier and used these as the basis for the play. The play explores Whitton's relationship with her partner Grier, portraying Whitton as a loving partner in a lesbian relationship and deals with the tension between Whitton's private life and her public one.